Farmers Lose Lengthy Court Battle Against Thai, Govt Mine

By Htet Naing Zaw 7 February 2018

NAYPYITAW — Nine farmers from Tenasserim Region’s Dawei Township have lost their lawsuit against state-owned Mining Enterprise 2 and Thailand’s Myanmar Pongpipat Co. asking for 300 million kyats ($227,000) in damages.

A nine-member appeals board at the Supreme Court of Myanmar in Naypyitaw rejected the suit in a final ruling on Monday because it had failed to comply with the Limitation Act, said their lawyer U Maung Maung Soe.

The act imposes various time limits on court cases.

“The Supreme Court of Myanmar rejected the appeal of the case against Heinda mine and there is no higher court to go to. I am sad for the local farmers,” U Maung Maung Soe said.

The lawsuit was first filed with the Dawei District Court in 2012 by locals who blamed years of flooding, crop damage and property losses on the soil the companies were dumping into the Myaung Pyo Creek.

After the district court ruled in favor of the companies, the Tenasserim Division Appeals Court overturned the decision, prompting the defendants to appeal to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court then overturned the decisions of the division court in June 2016, acquitting the defendants and requiring them only to pay all legal expenses. Dissatisfied, the plaintiffs took their case to a special two-member appeals board at the Supreme Court, which sent it to a nine-member board for a final decision.

In 2012, ethnic Dawei villagers told The Irrawaddy that their properties were being damaged by rising levels of wastewater ever since Myanmar Pongpipat took over the Heinda mine.  They said the company had filled the Myaung Pyo Creek with waste and sediment from the mine, causing more flooding that was damaging their homes, farms and water supplies.

The mine sits about 100 km east of Dawei near the Myitta sub-township next to an area linking the Dawei deep sea port and Kanchanaburi in Thailand.

The Thai company signed a production-sharing deal with Mining Enterprise 2 in 1999 to extract tin and tungsten from a 2,000-acre area and reportedly holds rights to 65 percent of produced, which is exported to Thailand and Singapore for processing. Mining Enterprise 2 holds the remaining rights to the mine

The Irrawaddy tried to meet with Myanmar Pongpipat officials at the mine in 2012, but they refused to speak without the government’s permission and told the reporters to leave.

Myanmar Pongpipat was granted permission to operate the mine for a 10-year term in 1999 and continues to operate it today despite the negative impacts on the environment and public health.

The mine sits in an area controlled by the Karen National Union, which has ordered Myanmar Pongpipat to halt its mining operations because of the harm it was doing locals, but to no avail.

Myaung Pyo village, downstream from the mine, was founded in the early 1980s and is home to more than 500 ethnic Dawei. Most are farmers and ranchers, though a few mine for lead.

Translated from Burmese by Myint Win Thein.