Lawyers to Help Letpadaung Protesters File Lawsuit

By Nyein Nyein 21 December 2012

A Rangoon-based law firm has agreed to file a lawsuit against the two powerful partners behind the controversial Letpadaung copper mine in Sagaing Division on behalf of local residents opposed to the project.

The firm, called the Hygienic Legal Clinic, said it would file a civil lawsuit against the military-backed Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings Limited (UMEH) and Wanbao, a subsidiary of Chinese state-owned weapons manufacturer Norinco, to demand the closure of the mine and to win compensation for victims of a crackdown on protesters late last month.

“We will apply for a perpetual injunction and damages” on behalf of the villagers, said lawyer Robert San Aung, adding that the case would be taken directly to the Supreme Court in the national capital Naypyidaw.

“The Union Supreme Court must accept the civil suit under Section 11 of the 2010 Judiciary Law,” he told The Irrawaddy on Friday.

Villagers from 26 villages in the mine area have protested against the mine—a joint venture between UMEH and Wanbao—for months, gaining nationwide support. On Nov. 29, local authorities launched a pre-dawn raid on protest camps, injuring nearly 100 Buddhist monks and other demonstrators.

Ko Thet, a Letpadaung resident, told The Irrawaddy that local people had sought the lawyers’ help with their case. He added that the protesters are waiting to see the outcome of an inquiry by a government-appointed commission headed by opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi before resuming protests. The commission is expected to release its findings in March.

The Hygienic Legal Clinic was formed in 2011 to assist ordinary citizens fight illegal land confiscation and other abuses by Burma’s military and companies close to the country’s former ruling generals. The lawyers said they would file the lawsuit against the Letpadaung mine no later than the second week of April.

They added that in the meantime, they would collect information and await the outcome of the government commission’s inquiry.