MANDALAY — At least 15 people were injured near the Letpadaung copper mine during a clash between police and locals on Friday.
The conflict broke out on Friday night when police fired rubber bullets at protestors who were blocking a road.
“At least 15 locals were shot with rubber bullets. There were about 30 protestors from Moegyopyin village who fought back, firing sling shots and throwing rocks at the police,”said U La Pyae, a resident of Moegyopyin village.
Locals said the crowd then dispersed and trucks were permitted to use the road.
The road, which connects the mining site with the Wanbao mining company, was blocked on Friday morning, and trucks carrying waste soil were unable to pass.
Locals say the dump trucks do not follow traffic rules and cause accidents, killing livestock and injuring locals. Moreover, they do not take responsibility for these accidents when locals complain to the company, they say.
“We’ve complained several times but local authorities ignore us, which is why we’ve blocked the road again,” said Ma Zarchi Lin, a Moegyopyin resident.
On the same day, the regional administrative office issued a warning urging protestors to reopen the road or authorities would use force to disperse them. The statement also told locals not to protest or block the road in the future.
“We are disappointed that local authorities still don’t understand us. We are the ones who suffer. We want higher authorities, like the chief minister, to negotiate with Wanbao on our behalf,” Ma Zarchi Lin said.
According to the locals, the protestors blocked the road again on Saturday and would continue to do so until the problem was addressed.
“We will block the road if the problem is not solved,” she said.
The mine is one of several Chinese-operated projects in the region that have been criticized by locals for land confiscation and inadequate compensation.