Letpadaung Farmers Reject Compensation

By Nyein Nyein 4 April 2013

While hundreds of farmers have received compensation for land taken from them for the controversial Letpadaung copper mine, many others are refusing to take the money.

The government committee tasked with providing compensation to residents around the mine in northwest Burma said that 570 farmers had received a total of 17.8 million kyat (US $20,300) for more than 1,700 acres of land, according to a statement released on Wednesday.

But the committee has also received 177 complaints to reject the compensation, it said.

“We do not accept the compensation because we do not want to leave our land,” said Myint Aye, from Moegyopyin village, one of 26 villages on the Letpadaung mountain range in Monywe District, Sagaing Division.

More than 7,000 acres of farmland were confiscated in 2010 for the Letpadaung copper mining project, a joint venture between the Chinese Wanbao company and Burma’s military-owned Union of Myanmar Economics Holdings.

Protests against the project began last year, with activists citing environmental concerns such as the piling of mining waste on village farmland.

A police crackdown on peaceful protesters in late November left more than 100 people injured, mostly Buddhist monks.

A government team led by opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi was formed after the crackdown to investigate the mine and determine whether the project should continue. The team last month recommended that the project continue and farmers be compensated for their lost land.

An implementation committee was formed to distribute compensation for farmland seized in Salingyi Township of Monywa District.

Village officials last month invited residents with a loudspeaker announcement to visit the township administrative office for the money.

“But we didn’t go,” one resident told The Irrawaddy.

A monk from Hse Tae, one of four villages forced to relocate last year, said some farmers took the compensation because they believed they had no other option.

The monk added that about 150 households remain in the village and have refused the compensation.

“The [implementation] committee pays one million kyat for an acre of farmland, but some claim that this rate of compensation is too low to even think of taking it,” he said.

Among them is Myint Aye, whose 10 acres of land have been affected by the mining project.

“We are going to plant sesame and pigeon peas soon, so we’re protecting our farmland from being filled with waste from the Wanbao company,” said Myint Aye.

In a statement on Wednesday, the implementation committee said it would “continue the granting of compensation” and “act on suggestions” of the inquiry led by Aung San Suu Kyi.

The anti-copper mine protests have resumed daily since last week, when hundreds of protesters demonstrated and posted signs on their land reading, “This land is not for sale” and “End the copper mine project.”

The protesters have received permission to assemble.

“Now we’re being very careful about our security,” said Myint Aye. “So we made sure to get permission to protest before starting.

“Our land was confiscated, and the land could bring harm to our villagers.”