Minister to help settle Thabeikkyin gold mines feud
PROTESTERS of Thabeikkyin township gold mines, who have not shied away from guerilla tactics in the past, said they feel their complaints have finally been heard, following a meeting with a regional minister this week.
The meeting was secured after an unauthorised demonstration outside the Mandalay Region government’s office on September 27. When police confronted them, the Yehtwet villagers refused to stand down and continued to demand a meeting that day with the chief minister.
Instead, they were received by U Myo Thit, Mandalay Region minister for natural resources and forestry.
“He said he will do for us what he can,” said U Htay Kyaw, a resident of Yehtwet village.
While the dispute is still far from resolved, the villagers said they returned home encouraged.
The dispute revolves around rampant gold mining the locals say has strayed on to village property. Fortynine official mining companies and about 100 illegal mining enterprises operate in Thabeikkyin township.
“The Ministry of Home Affairs demarcated a specific area as the official boundaries of Yehtwet village since 2011. The relevant departments together demarcated the land with measuring devices. The natural markers are still there. But the gold miners are encroaching on village land. The overlap is now over 70 acres, and 45 houses have cropped up for workers digging gold,” said U Htay Kyaw. “Our complaint is that we want our village land back.”
One of the main sites in contention was granted to military-owned Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings by No 2 Mining Enterprise under the Ministry of Mines for micro goldmining on January 28 last year. The military conglomerate then signed a contract with Myanmar Sithu Company to operate the project on March 25, 2015.
In July last year, around 100 villagers decided to occupy the UMEHLowned mines in a demonstration that escalated to setting company property and vehicles ablaze. One protester was hospitalised with a gunshot wound.
Region minister U Myo Thit said the issue will need to be discussed with Union-level officials, and criticised the villagers for their unorthodox tactics.
“If they had wanted to hold a demonstration, they should have done so according to the law. Appearing in front of a government office and demanding things is not acceptable. We are not available to meet on a whim,” he said.
He added that he would nevertheless try to help resolve the villagers’ problem.
“We will have to attend a hluttaw session and raise the issue there,” he said.
Protesters from Yehtwet village stage a demonstration outside the Mandalay Region government’s office demanding to meet the chief minister.