Joint Venture Chinese Company Faces Charges for Assaulting Reporters

By Nan Lwin 27 February 2019

YANGON—The managing director and staff of a mining company who detained and assaulted two journalists on Tuesday, face five charges including assaulting a woman and wrongful restraint, according to the editor-in-chief of Myitkyina Journal where the reporters work.

A Chinese joint venture, Tha Khin Sit Mining, Import and Export Company’s director and employees forcibly took two reporters from the office of the Myitkyina Journal one day after the journal published a story about local residents’ plans to stage a protest against the companies which are carrying out site clearances for banana plantations in Waimaw Township, Kachin State.

The reporters were detained in separate rooms in the company’s compound. One of the company employees slapped the female reporter’s face with a copy of the Myitkyina Journal. The male reporter was forced to do 300 sit-ups as punishment. The two reporters were only released after their employers contacted Waimaw Township Police Station, which sent police officers to surround the company’s compound.

The Myitkyina Journal editors opened a case against the managing director and five other employees of the mining company at the Waimaw police station under five charges: assault of a women with intent to outrage her modesty; obscene acts; wrongful restraint; voluntarily causing hurt; and abettor present when offence is committed, according to Seng Mai, publisher and editor-in-chief at the Myitkyina Journal which is a local independent weekly.

If found guilty, they could face a one-month to two-year prison sentence and a fine.

According to Myanmar TradeNet, the company is a joint venture between a local Kachin business and a Chinese partner which is active in mining, imports and exports and tissue-culture banana plantations. Registration data from the Directorate of Investment and Company Administration shows the company’s three directors are ethnic Kachin.

According to the Media Law Chapter 8, if any responsibilities or ethics are considered to be breached by a news media worker, the aggrieved department, organization or individual should complain to the Myanmar Press Council first. The council can resolve the problem by meeting with the two parties and seeking a compromise between them. If the two parties cannot work out a compromise agreement, or the arguments cannot be settled, the complainant or aggrieved party can prosecute the other party at the relevant court under applicable laws, it states.

The Myanmar Press Council released a statement condemning the mining company for its wrongful criminal act and urged the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Kachin state government to take serious action against the people who committed the crime.

For more than two years, China-backed banana plantations have been facing a backlash from local residents in Kachin State, where operators are accused of working lands acquired controversially. As the banana plantations expand, villagers displaced by fighting and living in IDP camps are increasingly concerned that their land may be occupied, and that they will not be able to farm it when they return home.

According to the state’s Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation Ministry, there are more than 27,000 acres planted with tissue-culture bananas in Waimaw Township, with most of the plantations being operated by Chinese companies. Statewide, there are more than 60,000 acres of banana plantations.

According to a 2017 environmental study by the Lisu Civil Society Organization, Chinese companies have been planting tissue culture bananas since 2012 in Kachin State’s Special Region 1, which is under the control of the government-allied New Democratic Army-Kachin militia. It said the plantations have been gradually expanding in three townships: Bhamo, Shwegu and Waimaw Township.

According to the study, the companies are using insecticides, weed killers and fertilizers and disposing of them carelessly. This has led to the pollution of water supplies in these areas, in turn causing soil damage and killing fish and livestock.

The Irrawaddy was unable to reach anyone at Tha Khin Sit for their comments on Wednesday.