Letpadaung Protester, Companion Detained and Facing Charges

By Zarni Mann 23 May 2016

MANDALAY — Nay Lin Soe, a protester who had been marching from Rangoon to the controversial Letpadaung copper mine in Sagaing Division, was arrested with a companion outside Mandalay on Monday.

As he crossed the bridge from Mandalay to Sagaing, a city across the Irrawaddy River, local authorities attempted to halt him and warned him not to proceed. However, he continued his march and was arrested, along with his friend Kyaw Zin, right after he passed into Sagaing.

According to Sagaing Township police, charges were filed and a court hearing is scheduled for Tuesday.

“They were charged under the Peaceful Assembly Law’s Article 18 [covering unauthorized protests]. Since it is bailable offense, they will be released this evening. However, we will proceed with the hearing tomorrow,” said Sagaing Township Police Col. Nyan Thaung.

Though the National League for Democracy (NLD) government intends to replace the controversial legislation, police have continued to bring charges under the Peaceful Assembly Law since the new administration assumed power last month.

A banner-wielding Nay Lin Soe began his march from Rangoon on May 14, starting in front of City Hall. His friend, Kyaw Zin, did not appear to be actively participating in the protest, and seemed to have taken on the role of passive travel companion.

During the march, Nay Lin Soe said his goal was to raise awareness of the land confiscated from farmers and the negative environmental impacts that locals were facing due to the waste and mining in the Letpadaung project area.

In early May, locals and farmers from the villages around the Letpadaung copper mining area held a series of protests against the resumption of mining by Wanbao, a Chinese firm in a joint venture with Burma Army-owned Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings Ltd. (UMEHL).