Yamethin Gold Miners Facing Trial Again

By Zarni Mann 10 April 2013

Three gold miners from Mandalay Division who were jailed for protesting are facing legal action again, just as they near completion of their six-month prison terms, according to the family of one of the men.

Ye Yint Htun and two other gold miners, all from the Moehti Moemi gold mining region of Yamethin Township, were arrested in November while marching home from Rangoon and were later sentenced to six months in prison for threatening the stability of the state and demonstrating without permission.

“His prison term was served and [he] should be free on Thursday. But we were called by the court on Monday, informed that they will have to face another trial. [They were] sued by the Myanmar National Prosperity Public Company with three charges, saying they were acting rude to the company during their protest,” said Ei Mon Kyaw, the wife of Ye Yint Htun.

“I was happy that my husband would be free very soon after serving the unjust sentence, but I’m now hopeless, helpless and disappointed,” she added.

The three men were originally convicted of violating Section 505(b) of the Burmese Penal Code, which makes it a crime to act “with intent to cause, or in a manner that is likely to cause, fear or alarm to the public or any section of the public, whereby any person may be induced to commit an offense against the State or against public tranquility.” They were also found guilty of violating Section 18 of the Peaceful Assembly Act, requiring people to obtain government approval for demonstrations.

Twenty-nine other gold miners who participated in the November protest march are facing trial alongside Ye Yint Htun and the two others. According to colleagues, 11 gold miners out of the 29, who showed up to court for a preliminary hearing on Monday, were detained by Yemethin Police.

“The police in charge gave no reason but just said that it was necessary to detain them [the gold miners] for another trial hearing that will be on April 22. We think it is unnecessary to do this. We are trying to get bail, however, their families and relatives live far from Yamethin,” a gold mining colleague said.

Thousands of small-scale gold miners staged a protest in June 2012, after the Myanmar National Prosperity Public Company (MNPPC) demanded that they stop working at the 6,000-acre Moehti Moemi gold mining area of Yamethin Township, which lies about 80 kilometers north of Naypyidaw.

The miners accused the MNPPC of reneging on a verbal agreement with about 1,000 small mining companies and individual miners at the end of 2011. They claimed the accord allowed them to mine gold there for the duration of MNPPC’s five-year government contract.

The miners called off their two-week protest after MNPPC agreed to meet their demands, but discord arose once again after the miners complained that the company had failed to keep its word. About 70 miners began a march to MNPPC’s headquarters, located in Rangoon, in November.

After negotiations and an agreement to reconvene at a later date, the gold miners were escorted home, during which Ye Yint Htun and the others were arrested on Nov. 23.

In January, a representative of the small-scale miners said an agreement with MNPPC had been reached, covering compensation and limited rights to mine in the area.