Min­is­ter to help set­tle Thabeikkyin gold mines feud

The Myanmar Times - - News - SI THU LWIN sithul­win@mm­times.com – Trans­la­tion by San Layy

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.

Photo: Si Thu Lwin

Pro­test­ers from Ye­htwet vil­lage stage a de­mon­stra­tion out­side the Man­dalay Re­gion gov­ern­ment’s of­fice de­mand­ing to meet the chief min­is­ter.

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