Residents demonstrate outside Mandalay chief minister’s office
ESCALATING protests against a military conglomerate-supported gold mine resulted in a stand-off between police and villagers outside regional government offices yesterday.
Five residents from Yehtwet village in Mandalay Region’s Thabeikkyin township demanded to meet with the chief minister, staging a demonstration outside the government’s office. They waved handmade signs that said, “Quickly resolve land problems” and “Do not encroach on Yehtwet village’s territory”.
“They told us that on September 23 they had received a verbal promise that they would be allowed to meet the chief minister,” said Police Colonel U Sein Tun from the Mandalay District Police Force.
“We told them that what they were doing was unlawful because they hadn’t asked for permission for the protest in advance,” he said.
Nevertheless, the protest eventually proved successful, and the villagers were granted an audience with the chief minister.
The residents say the gold miners are trespassing on village property, and have demanded the regional government intervene. But their formally submitted complaints have so far received no response, pushing them to take more decisive action yesterday.
The site in contention was granted to military-owned Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings by No 2 Mining Enterprise under the Ministry of Mines, for micro gold-mining, on January 28 last year. The military conglomerate then signed a contract with Myanmar Sithu Company to operate the project on March 25, 2015.
The mining site extends within the village borders, alongside houses and buildings where people have been living for many years. Residents complain that miners from outside the area are encroaching on their farmlands and taking the gold that the villagers should be allowed to mine. Villagers have implored the government to retract the permit.
“Companies are trespassing on nearly 80 acres of the village’s land. That’s why we came to demonstrate and represent the village’s concerns,” said U Htay Kyaw, a resident of Yehtwet village. “We will stop demonstrating if the problem is resolved.”
Last year, the mining company and local residents repeatedly clashed, with protesters setting fire to the mining company’s property and to vehicles. In response, one local resident was shot and required hospitalisation. In January this year, 100 local residents occupied the mining site until a township management meeting was held by the Thabeikkyin Township Administration Office. The local officials decided to press charges against the villagers.
But the local community is refusing to give up the fight.
“We only want our village’s land, not anything else,” said U Htay Kyaw.
– Translation by Zar Zar Soe
Protesters are demanding the regional government oust a mining company from Yehtwet village.