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Around 300 people staged a rally in Sagaing Division’s capital Monywa on Monday, protesting land confiscations at the Latpadaung copper project and the use of violence against local residents who oppose the mine.
Later in the afternoon, the protestors marched from Monywa across the Chindwin River to the area of the copper mine where they met with the local villagers who are staging a series of sit-ins and rallies at the site.
Tun Myint Aung of the 88 Generation Peace and Open Society said Monday’s march was led by a civil society group called Myanmar Alliance for Transparency and Accountability.
“The problems at Latpadaung today are in a whole different direction from EITI standards,” he told DVB. “The project, while not only not serving the interests of the local population, is leading to loss of their farmland and even human life.
“This project is only profitable for a handful of people,” he added.
Public demonstrations have been held across Burma in recent weeks in solidarity with the villagers in the Latpadaung area who oppose the copper mine venture. Sentiments heightened after a local woman, Khin Win, was shot dead on 22 December when protestors confronted riot police at the site. Official investigations have been launched into the death.
The contractors of the project, Myanmar Wanbao, which is a joint venture between Burma’s military-backed Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings and Chinese state-run mining firm Wanbao, issued a statement last week, lamenting the villager’s death but reiterating its right to continue the project, stating that it has followed all the recommendations issued by the Latpadaung investigation commission.
Hundreds of local villagers and their supporters have been protesting the Latpadaung copper mine since its inception more than 10 years ago. Many have been displaced to make way for the project, which was originally contracted to a Canadian firm, Ivanhoe Mines.
The controversial mine was temporarily suspended when activists and monks staged a mass sit-in protest in 2012. The protest was broken up brutally by riot police on 29 November that year when some 80 protestors were injured, including several Buddhist monks, many with horrific burns that experts have attributed to white phosphorous.
A subsequent investigation headed by opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi failed to pronounce anyone guilty for the violent crackdown, and to many villagers’ dismay, recommended to the government that the project be resumed.