State counsellor asked to intervene in spat with Chinese-backed nickel mine
FARMERS who say their ancestral lands were confiscated for a Chinesebacked nickel-processing project are demanding compensation. In their latest move in the long-running dispute, they have asked State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi to intervene.
Sagaing Region Farmers’ Association executive member U Nay Win said the farmers had received police permission for a protest involving 1000 farmers against the Tagaung Taung Nickel Project in Htigyaing township. But at the request of the local authorities, they met with the company on September 15.
Though they raised questions of job creation, land compensation, solid waste pollution, the dismissal of the factory boss and issues around the transportation of coal from Maung Kone port, none were resolved, they said.
“We weren’t satisfied with the outcome of the meeting,” said U Nay Win. “The company said they had 1500 employees, including 700 local residents, and asked if we wanted them to be dismissed. They said the land in question was forest, but we’ve been farming it for 70 years.”
The farmers then submitted their complaints to the Union and regional governments, and to the state counsellor.
The farmers have been protesting against the company since 2012, without result. The Tagaung Taung Nickel Mine signed a contract with China Nonferrous Metal Mining Co in Nay Pyi Taw in 2007. The project entailed the seizure of more than 3000 acres (1200 hectares) of land with crop compensation of K50,000 an acre payable to 122 farmers – including 17 who had registered their land – in five villages of Maung Kone village tract.
“I was working 8 acres. Some land had crops, some was ploughed. They just paid crop compensation for 4.65 acres. We want land compensation at current prices,” said cane farmer U Sein Min.
Farmer U Myint Hlaing, who has registered his land ownership, said the price of farmland per acre was between K10 million to K15 million, depending on location, if factories were to be built on the land. He said protests had taken place nearly every year since 2012.
“Apart from the 3086.66 acres seized by the Chinese mining company, Htoo and Great Chan also took 25 acres each. The local authorities told us this was forest land. But before the Tagaung forest area was recognised, our ancestors farmed those lands,” U Nay Win told The Myanmar Times.
About 33 village tracts in Htigyaing township have joined the protesters, saying eight companies have seized some 100,000 acres.
“Some of the local residents are afraid to speak out. We will deal with the nickel project first, then take up the other questions,” said U Nay Win.
The local MP, U Thein Han (NLD; Htigyaing 2), said he would raise the matter in the hluttaw, adding, “It could take five years to reach a solution.”