Cement Factory Protestors Given 14 Months Imprisonment
By Zarni Mann 3 July 2019
MANDALAY—Four people from Aung Thabyay Village who protested against a controversial cement factory in Patheingyi Township, Mandalay Region, were sentenced to 14 months imprisonment Tuesday.
U Than Paing, Daw Aye, Daw Mya and Daw Mya Mya were found guilty of obstructing the road leading to the cement factory under regional laws regulating roads and transportation.
“The punishment is too harsh, for we did nothing wrong. This is our land and we are protecting it, which they [the cement company and local authorities] did not give any compensation for,” Daw Mya said after the sentence was announced at the Pyigyitagon Court, before being escorted to prison.
The protestors’ lawyer said the court made the decision based on the testimonies of the plaintiff and the plaintiff’s witnesses only.
“The court did not show its consideration of the testimonies of the locals and the evidence [they] submitted,” their lawyer, U Sithu, said. “We can say the decision of the court is unjust. We will submit an appeal to a higher court.”
The four had been facing the lawsuit since July 2018. Another four are facing the same charges in a separate lawsuit.
More than 25 people from Aung Thabyay Village have been sued for obstruction, incitement and arson under the Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Law, the Regional Road and Transportation Law and similar laws after crackdowns on protests against the Alpha Cement Factory, owned by China’s Myint Investment Co., in May of this year.
The protesters have urged the Union government to intervene in the conflict, demanding the cement factory project be scrapped.
The cement factory is under construction in Aung Thabyay Village, Patheingyi Township, about 37 km north of Mandalay.
According to locals, the company conducted soil testing at the site in 2014 and bought 242 hectares from residents after securing permission to build the factory and mine a nearby hill for raw materials.
Local residents sent complaints to the divisional government in 2014, and the project was halted. However, construction resumed in 2015, prompting further objections from locals. In 2016 they staged a series of protests against the factory.
The protests escalated last year when the Road Transportation Administration Department of Manadalay Region announced plans to expand the village road connecting the cement factory with the main road.
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