Thousands of farmers protest against China-Burmese mine
/ Agencies) - More than a thousand people in 12 villages scattered in the
north-west of Myanmar have launched a public march to protest against the
paltry compensation stipulated by the authorities in exchange for their land. The
money would be paid to cover losses for the seizure of land and displacement
from their areas of origin, necessary to allow the expansion of a Chinese-Burmese
owned copper mine. On
22 August, the peasants marched from the region of Sagaing for a few kilometers
starting from the hills of Letpadaung, the quarry site that is under expansion,
up to the town of Salingyi to "challenge the seizure of almost 3,300
hectares of arable land" .
For the villagers, the managers of the mine have not responded to questions regarding environmental pollution, disruption of forced removals and just compensation raised by the population. The quarry is owned by the Myanmar Wanabo Copper Mining - the Chinese state giant -owned China North Industries Corp. (Norinco) - and operates in partnership with the Burmese Ministry for Mines and industry close to the military leadership.
According to reports from Radio Free Asia (RFA), the area has been the scene of protests since December 2011, when in the middle of the night the peasants were awakened and saw officials and leaders of Myanmar Wanab throw waste products in the fields and destroy the crops. To the complaints made by farmers, three Chinese workers on a hill replied aggressively, throwing a large stone which almost hit the crowd of people below.
Interviewed by the Myanmar Times, the deputy general manager of Myanmar Wanabo Myint Aung replied that compensation has already been paid and the amount paid is fair. He added that so far 200 families have moved and have received extra compensation between 400 thousand and one million kyat, or about 1,100 US dollars. However, the farmers do not intend to leave the area and brand the sums of money received so far as compensation as "inadequate". They also complain about the indifference of the Chinese company to their demands.
The story of the Monywa mine is not the first example of a Burmese-Chinese project that raises controversy over the environmental impact and the violations of the rights of citizens. Last year, the government of Naypyidaw amazed the world when it halted the construction of the Myitsone dam - in the northern Kachin - on the orders of President Thein Sein in person (see AsiaNews 30/09/2011 Burmese President stops construction of Myitsone dam). Today, activists and environmental organizations call for a halt to other similar projects in a country rich in raw materials but at risk of uncontrolled exploitation.