Res­i­dents demon­strate out­side Man­dalay chief min­is­ter’s of­fice

The Myanmar Times - - News - SI THU LWIN sithul­win@mm­times.com

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

Photo: Si Thu Lwin

Pro­test­ers are de­mand­ing the re­gional gov­ern­ment oust a min­ing com­pany from Ye­htwet vil­lage.

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