Four Letpadaung Protesters Charged Under Peaceful Assembly Law

By Thazin Hlaing 29 June 2017

YANGON — Police have opened a case under Article 19 of the Peaceful Assembly and Procession Law against four local farmers who staged a protest against the China-backed Letpadaung Copper Mine on the Pathein-Monywa Road, confirmed the Salingyi Township police station.

Dozens of local farmers protested on Monday in front of China’s Wanbao Co, stating that the company’s mine was causing air pollution and environmental degradation. Then, police intervened.

“We’ve opened a case against four villagers under Article 19. We did not inform them that we’ve filed a complaint. We will just bring the case to court in line with the law,” police officer Htay Win of the Salingyi Township police station told The Irrawaddy.

Police have charged locals Daw Yi Win, U Khin Nyein, Daw Sandar and Daw Mar Cho.

“We read in the newspapers that we had been charged. Police never informed us,” Daw Yi Win told The Irrawaddy.

Demonstrators said Wanbao Co had failed to implement the recommendations made in a report by an investigation commission led by then-lawmaker Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in 2013.

Among the recommendations made by the commission were increasing land compensation, creating job opportunities for small- and medium-scale businesses in the region, and implementing environmental and social management systems for the mine.

Protesters claimed the Chinese company also failed to carry out a recommendation to reclaim 1,900 acres of land to replace their confiscated farmlands. As a result, they lost their livelihoods and face hardship. Protesters explained that this was the reason behind the demonstration.

“If actions are to be taken against local farmers for breaching the law, justice should also be served for Daw Khin Win, who was fatally shot by police,” said Daw San Nwe.

Daw Khin Win, 56, was killed in a clash between police and locals demonstrating against the mine in Dec. 2014.

If we are to be charged under the Peaceful Assembly and Procession Law, I would ask where is the justice for monks who were injured in a police crackdown during previous demonstrations or for the killing of Daw Khin Win, said Daw San Nwe.

“We deliberately did not seek permission for the protest in order to highlight the company’s own breach of the investigation report,” she added.

Wanbao Co has operated the controversial mine in partnership with the military-owned Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings Company (UMEHL) since 2010.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.