Police fire on Myanmar protesters, one dead, 20 hurt: reports


By Jared Ferrie and Aung Hla Tun, Reuters – http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/12/22/us-myanmar-protest-idUSKBN0K01...

Date of publication: 
22 December 2014

YANGON – Myanmar police fired on protesters near a mine at the center of a long-running land dispute on Monday, killing one person and wounding 20 others, media reports said, as the China-linked company announced plans to expand the project.

A Myanmar television station and website, the Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB), said that one person was killed during the protest near the Letpadaung copper mine in central Myanmar.

Khin San Hlaing, a parliamentarian with the opposition National League for Democracy, cited witnesses as saying a woman died after being struck in the head by a bullet.

The mining company, Myanmar Winbao, confirmed a person was killed.

“The events leading up to her death are still unclear,” company spokesman Cao Desheng said in a statement. “We understand the police were at the scene, and we hope they will start investigating this event.”

Local police contacted by Reuters said they had no information about the protests.

Earlier on Monday, Wanbao, which is a unit of the Chinese weapons manufacturer China North Industries Group Corp, said it would “be extending its working area in the Letpadaung copper project to comply with requirements of its investment permit”.

“Construction is proceeding as a result of broad community support for the project,” the company said in a statement, adding that two percent of the mine’s profits would be spent on community development.

The deadly protest comes as Myanmar’s semi-civilian government, which took power in 2011 after 49 years of military rule, faces criticism for rights abuses including cracking down on journalists and against protests.

United States President Barack Obama warned during a November visit that the country was backsliding on reforms.

Local residents have protested against the Letpadaung mine in Monywa, about 100 km (60 miles) west of Mandalay, saying thousands of acres of land have been confiscated to enable the project to proceed.

In November, Amnesty International urged the government to halt work at the site, saying land had been acquired through a flawed process and that other social and environmental issues must be resolved.

The rights group also said authorities have yet been held accountable for attacks on protesters two years earlier. In November 2012, more than 100 people including at least 67 monks were hurt when riot police raided camps set up by protesters.

(Additional reporting by Minzayar Oo in YANGON; Editing by Jeremy Laurence)


More Villagers Injured in Letpadaung Mine Protests

By Kyah Phyo Tha, The Irrawaddy – http://www.irrawaddy.org/burma/villagers-injured-letpadaung-mine-protest...

23 December 2014

RANGOON — Three people were injured on Tuesday morning when police used rubber bullets to quell an attempt to halt land seizures near the Letpadaung copper mining project, the day after one woman was shot dead by police in the same village.

A doctor from the 88 Generation Peace and Open Society, who is giving medical assistance at Hse Tae village and who spoke to The Irrawaddy on condition of anonymity, said he had treated 16 people who were injured in confrontations over the last two days, including several shot with rubber bullets, while others were hit and kicked by police and Chinese employees working on the project.

“Most of them are women,” he said.

According to Hse Tae residents, more than 17 acres of farmland in the surrounding area had been bulldozed since 6:30am on Tuesday, destroying a swath of sesame, sunflower and bean crops.

“Right after the bulldozer passed, the Chinese workers planted posts to demarcate the land for fencing,” said Phyu Hnin Htwe, a Hse Tae resident who witnessed the seizure. “When the villagers attempted to stop the bulldozer, police shot them down.”

An official from Myanmar Wanbao Mining Copper Limited, the Chinese company constructing the Letpadaung mine in a joint venture with the military-owned Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings, told the Irrawaddy on Tuesday that the company will continue to fence the area.

“We will keep fencing today,” said Dong Yunfei, Wanbao’s administrative manager. “We are just doing our business on the land we leased, and there are some people who are not pleased with what we are doing because of instigation by some political forces.”

Dong added that the project had the approval of the majority of local villagers, and the land had been appropriated by the government in 2001 and leased to the company in 2011.

A report in state-run media on Tuesday, headlined ‘Extension of Letpadaung Copper Mine Fence Disturbed’, said that villagers attacked security forces and detained 10 workers. The article stated that 11 police and nine villagers were injured in the confrontation, in addition to the death of 56-year-old villager Khin Win.

In a press statement on Monday, Wanbao said it would extend its working area under the direction of the Burmese government in order to comply with the requirements of its investment permit granted by the Myanmar Investment Commission.

In a subsequent press release, issued on Monday after Khin Win’s death was made public, Wanbao described the death as “senseless” and expressed hope for a full police investigation, while touting the copper mine’s broad public support in the affected communities.

“91 percent of impacted villagers in 27 villages who were consulted through door to door consultations have also supported us,” the statement read. “So we have achieved great strides in our community relationships. There is a great story of hope and reconciliation […] This is what makes this senseless death even more painful and poignant. The mining project is there to help people like the lady who has passed away.”

On Tuesday the company accused protestors of using slingshots and throwing rocks at police and Wanbao staff, while vehemently denying accounts on social media that its employees had assaulted villagers and carried knives.

“These stories are hurtful and totally untrue,” read a statement on the Wanbao website. “If anything it has been Wanbao staff and contractors who have been at the receiving end of intimidation and beatings by activists and extremists as they carry out their work.”

The Letpadaung copper mining project has gained international notoriety since a Nov. 2012 incident in which police fired at demonstrators using incendiary rounds, believed to be white phosphorous, during a brutal crackdown at a protest camp.

In the last two years, there have been numerous confrontations between villagers and security forces as the mine’s operators attempted to extend the project’s operating area. Protests continue over the project due to loss of farmland, ecological impact and the destruction of sacred religious structures.

Four villages are being completely cleared for the mine and land around 26 other farming villagers, inhabited by more than 25,000 people, are also being acquired by the project.

Many villagers are reluctant to take compensation after growing up in families that have tilled the surrounding farmlands for generations.

“We are just farmers,” said 38-year-old Hse Tae villager Yee Win, whose 14 acres of land were confiscated last year. “All we know is how to do farming. I just want my land back, as I am not sure the compensation they pay will guarantee our livelihoods.”

Win Mar, whose seven acres of crops outside Hse Tae were flattened by a bulldozer on Tuesday morning, has also refused compensation.

“We tried to prevent them but it was in vain,” she said. “We were outnumbered. There were police vans and fire engines behind them.”

“I’m very sad. They robbed me of my land. I don’t know what to do next,” she added.


Myanmar: Serious risk of further human rights abuses at controversial Letpadaung mine


27 November 2014

Two years after police used incendiary weapons against monks and villagers protesting a mining project in central Myanmar, no one has been held accountable, Amnesty International said ahead of the anniversary of the attack.

The organization also highlights ongoing problems with the way the Letpadaung mine is being developed and the risk of further abuses. Construction is proceeding without resolving ongoing environmental and human rights concerns. Thousands of farmers remain under the threat of forced evictions since their lands were acquired for the mine in a flawed process characterized by misinformation.

On 29 November 2012, police used white phosphorous munitions in their attack on a peaceful protest against the Letpadaung copper mine in Sagaing Region, injuring at least 99 monks and nine other protesters. Many suffered extremely painful burns and some have been left with lifelong injuries and scarring.

“Two years after this brutal attack, it is completely unacceptable that the scores of people injured while protesting are still waiting for justice and reparations. White phosphorus munitions should never be used by the police – the use of such weapons against peaceful protesters is a flagrant violation of international law,” said Audrey Gaughran, Director of Global Issues at Amnesty International.

“No police officer or official who was involved in the attack has been investigated, prosecuted or sanctioned, while the government has failed to provide victims with effective remedies and adequate reparation.”

The mining project is being developed by a subsidiary of the Chinese mining company Wanbao Mining Ltd and the Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings Limited (UMEHL), the economic arm of the Myanmar military.

The underlying human rights and environmental issues have also yet to be resolved. Protests in the region continue as hundreds of families resist forced evictions from their land to make room for the Letpadaung mine.

Four villages, made up of 441 households, are supposed to be completely relocated for the Letpadaung mining project. Of these, 245 have been moved to resettlement sites, while the remaining 196 have refused to leave their homes.

Land largely used for farming, has also been acquired from 26 other villages for the project. According to the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) for the project, as of May 2014 almost half of the villagers (44 per cent) had refused to relinquish their lands.

The authorities misinformed the villagers about the acquisition process – making it appear that they were compensating them for damage to their crops – while in reality using this process to permanently acquire their land.

“The authorities should urgently set up a genuine consultation with the affected villages on the land acquisition and proposed evictions. They must guarantee that no one will be forcibly evicted,” said Audrey Gaughran.

“The construction of the Letpadaung mine must be halted immediately until a thorough environmental and social impact assessment has been carried out, which genuinely consults all the people affected.”

The ESIA – commissioned by Myanmar Wanbao Mining Copper Limited (a subsidiary of Wanbao Mining Ltd.) – for the project has critical gaps, including the failure to include the final designs of waste storage and other environmentally sensitive infrastructure.

The assessment also ignores community concerns about the nearby, existing Sabetaung and Kyisintaung copper mine, operated by another subsidiary of Wanbao, and the Moe Gyo Sulphuric Acid Factory, owned by UMEHL, which supplies acid to the mine.

“More than 25,000 people live in 26 villages in the five kilometre distance between the two mines, with the sulphuric acid factory also in close proximity. People who may be affected by pollution need more information on how cumulative risks from all three projects will be managed,” said Audrey Gaughran.

Amnesty International is investigating past and current human rights issues around the Letpadaung mine, and the Sabetaung and Kyisintaung copper mine as well as the Moe Gyo Sulphuric Acid Factory. The findings will be presented in a report due to be released early in 2015.


Myanmar Yang Tse Copper Limited (a wholly owned subsidiary of Wanbao Mining Ltd.) started operating the Sabetaung and Kyisintaung copper mine from 2011.

Under the current production sharing contract for the Letpadaung mine, Myanmar Wanbao Mining Copper Ltd. and the Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings Limited retain 49 per cent of the profits and the remaining 51 per cent are given to the Government of Myanmar.

For further information contact Elizabeth Berton-Hunter, Media Relations
(416)363-9933 #332 bberton-hunter [at] amnesty [dot] ca