Hundreds Resume Letpadaung Mine Protest

By Zarni Mann 28 March 2013

More than 300 farmers in northern Burma’s Sagaing Division have resumed their protests against a controversial Chinese-backed copper mine, saying they will refuse compensation and continue to push for the mine’s complete closure.

“No matter how much compensation they give, we won’t accept it, because all we want is for the mine to be shut down completely,” said one of the farmers from the Letpadaung area near Monywa.

The protesters are also demanding that the government take action against those responsible for a Nov. 29, 2012, crackdown that left around 100 protesters injured, some of them severely. They say they also want an emergency order banning protests lifted.

The farmers say that the mine, jointly owned by the Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings Ltd, a Burmese military-owned conglomeration, and Wanbao, a subsidiary of Chinese state-owned arms manufacturer Norinco, has been dumping waste on land owned by farmers who have refused compensation.

Some of the farmers said that they have attempted to obstruct the efforts of mine employees to take over their land. “When we attempted to halt their work, they called the police to drive us back. Later some farmers used big stone slabs to fence in their confiscated lands to prevent the bulldozers,” said one farmer.

“They are even trying to get us to give up our lands forever, using some of the former protest leaders to convince us. They say we will get electricity and water. But we won’t accept it. We just want to stop the mining for the sake of our future generations,” said another.

The protests against the mine began last year, and attracted support from activists around the country. However, farmers in the affected area have been divided over whether to continue their protests since a government-formed commission led by opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi released a report earlier this month saying the project should go ahead.

Those still pushing for the mine’s closure say they will not give up.

“The reason we don’t accept the result of the commission is because it doesn’t assure our future, our land and our environment, and makes no commitment to bringing the culprit behind the crackdown to justice. We will continue to protest—with permission from the authorities—until the mining stops,” said one protester.