YANGON —Thailand’s National Human Rights Commission conducted an initial hearing of complaints against Ban Chaung coal mining project in Tanintharyi Region’s Dawei Township on Monday.
In June, 135 locals from villages in the project’s vicinity filed a complaint with the commission, urging them to investigate the activities of Thai mining firms East Star Co, Thai Asset Mining Co and Energy Earth PCL.
Representatives of local villages and officials of Thai companies were present at the hearing, Naw Pi Tha Law of Dawei-based Tarkapaw Youth Group told The Irrawaddy.
“The mine is operated by Thai companies on the ground, so locals directly filed complaints to the commission. It will conduct a survey after informing Myanmar Human Rights Commission. Then, it will make a report and send it to the Thai government,” said Naw Pi Tha Law.
The mine has been suspended since early this year after Tanintharyi Region’s minister for resources and environmental conservation inspected the mine following the complaints of locals and found that waste water from the mine was being dumped into Ban Chaung Creek and the smell of burning coal filled the air, according to Naw Pi Tha Law.
Locals have complained about land confiscation, poisoning of local waterways and a significant decline in air quality due to noxious fumes.
“We have suffered terribly from the burning of coal. We can’t stand it anymore,” said Naw Aye Po, a representative of Kun Gyi Chaung village who attended the hearing.
“We hope that Thailand’s National Human Rights Commission will make sure Thai companies do not violate the human rights of Myanmar locals,” she said.
Local operator Myanmar May Flower won the contract in 2010 to operate Ban Chaung mining project, and three Thai companies started mining in 2012.
The project is allegedly affecting more than 16,000 locals in 22 villages in Dawei Township and locals have been calling for the termination of the mine.