Letpadaung Protesters Mark Crackdown Anniversary by Urging Detainees’ Release

By Zarni Mann 29 May 2013

More than 400 farmers and other locals from the Letpadaung copper mine area in central Burma’s Sagaing Division urged local authorities on Wednesday to immediately release three detainees and stop their manhunt for people accused of supporting and assisting the displaced farmers there.

Three protesters, including activist Aung Soe of the Rangoon People’s Support Network, were detained after security forces moved in to prevent farmers from plowing fields in the villages of Hse Te and nearby Moegyopyin on April 25.

“We would like to request that authorities unconditionally release these people and immediately stop the manhunts. They have done nothing wrong but were just helping us [the farmers] to win back our lands,” said Sandar, a protesting farmer who participated in Wednesday’s protest march to commemorate the six-month anniversary of a pre-dawn crackdown on peaceful anti-copper mine protesters camped out in the area.

Activists in Rangoon, Meikhtila, Prome and Nattalin also showed solidarity with those in Sagaing Division by holding prayer services at pagodas in their respective towns.

“We have not received information about them since they have been detained. The police refuse to give the information. Since we do not know their condition and where they are keeping them, family members are worried,” Sandar added.

The protesters also urged authorities to investigate and take action against the perpetrators of the Nov. 29 crackdown, in which incendiary devices that seriously injured more than 70 anti-mine protesters, including Buddhist monks, were used.

“It’s been six months since the crackdown but we haven’t seen the culprits of the incident punished,” said another protesting local from the village of Tone.

They also complained that the mining company had not yet not followed through on the recommendations of a government commission’s report on Letpadaung.

“Formally, the mining company said that they would redo the mining contract with transparency and would take care of the environmental matters as well. But the company has not yet drawn up the new contract and instead is continuing its mining without taking care of the area’s environment,” he said.

“We just want justice to be done and to win back our lands as well.”

Protests against land confiscation and pushing for an end to copper mining in the area began last year.

The Letpadaung copper mining project, which is a joint venture between the Chinese company Wanbao and Burma’s military-owned Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings has displaced farming families in 26 villages, with more than 7,000 acres confiscated in 2010.