Myanmar Court Fines Villagers, Chinese Mining Firm Employee in Waste Dispute

By Zarni Mann 10 October 2019

MANDALAY—The court in Salingyi Township of Sagaing Division on Wednesday imposed fines on both sides of a legal dispute between a group of residents of the Letpadaung copper mining region and a Chinese employee of the company that operates the controversial mine.

The seven local residents and the Chinese employee of Wanbao Copper Mining Company sued each other in August 2016 in a dispute over the disposal of waste soil near a religious building in Wat Hmay Village, which is located inside the mining zone.

Ma Thwae Thwae Win and six other residents of Wat Hmay were sued by the mining company for trespassing in the mining zone, hurting their staff and obstructing the company’s work. The court on Wednesday sentenced the seven to a 30,000 kyat fine (about US$20) or 30 days’ imprisonment. All chose to pay the fine.

On the same day, Yu Guo Li, a driver for Wanbao Copper Mining Co., was sentenced to a fine of 100,000 kyats or six months’ imprisonment for driving carelessly, resulting in an injury to Ma Thwae Thwae Win. He also chose to pay the fine.

On Aug. 23, 2016, angered by the company’s dumping of waste soil near the religious building in their village, Ma Thwae Thwae Win and the six others attempted to block the vehicle being driven by Yu. The vehicle failed to stop, injuring Ma Thwae Thwae Win.

Ma Thwae Thwae Win filed a complaint over the incident at Salingyi Township police station.

In response, a legal adviser for Wanbao Copper Mining Co. filed a complaint at the same police station against Ma Thwae Thwae Win and the six other residents.

“I want to say the decision of the court is unjust. We didn’t enter the premises of the mining zone. We accidentally entered the area because the car didn’t stop,” Ma Thwae Thwae Win said.

“Moreover, if the Chinese staff there had negotiated with us peacefully and not harmed us, there would have been no need to sue each other. The Chinese staff of the company are still being tough on us, so there will be more conflicts and misunderstanding between us in the future,” she added.

The Letpadaung copper mining project, a joint venture between Myanmar military-owned Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings Limited (UMEHL) and the Chinese firm Wanbao, was launched in 2010.

About 3,200 hectares of land in Salingyi Township were confiscated for the project. Since 2012, local residents have protested against the project’s lack of environmental safeguards and the poor compensation they were offered by the owners.

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