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Chinese national Li Ta Qiu, the head of catering for the Wanbao mining company in Letpadaung, Sagaing Region, was yesterday fined 500,000 kyat (US$365) for humiliating a female staffer several years ago.
A Monywa courthouse heard that Mr. Li ordered his subordinate, a Burmese woman named Kyi Kyi May, to stand on one spot for three consecutive working days for her failure to comply with a new company policy regarding working hours. The physical exertion of the punishment caused Kyi Kyi May to be hospitalised.
Speaking to DVB after the hearing, Swe Aye Nyein, the associate judge at yesterday’s hearing and information officer for Monywa court, said, “Mr. Li was convicted under Article 354 of the penal code [assaulting a woman] and given the option of a 500,000 kyat fine or two months’ imprisonment.”
However, the plaintiff was reportedly unhappy that her former boss was allowed to walk free after paying a relatively small fine.
“We are not happy with the verdict,” said a colleague of Kyi Kyi May. “The Wanbao supervisor only has to pay a small fine. The penalty does not fit the crime. It is unjust, and we will appeal.”
The Letpadaung copper mine has courted controversy since its inception in 1994. Originally run by Canadian firm Ivanhoe, Chinese company Wanbao became the majority shareholder in 2011 despite years of protests by locals and activists who claimed land was being seized and the environment destroyed by the contractors.
Mining was temporarily suspended when activists and monks staged a mass sit-in protest in 2012. The demonstration 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.
In 2014, three employees of Wanbao were kidnapped by activists but later released. Protests against operations have continued, at times leading to violent confrontations between local farmers and security forces. In December 2015, a local farmer, Khin Win, was fatally shot during a demonstration at the mine.