Opposition icon Aung San Suu Kyi has stood by her commission’s findings on a trip to Monywa today amid growing criticisms over her failure to call for the closure of a controversial Chinese-backed mine in the area.
“I think we have to deprioritise our emotions and needs when it comes to the greater good,” said the chair of the Latpadaung commission during a meeting with locals in Sarlingyi township.
“I believe that this project, if done right, would not only bring profit for the locals but for the whole country and this is why I’m recommending to continue it.”
The comments come as both the Chinese foreign ministry and Latpadaung-partner Wanbao lent their support to the commission’s report.
“The Chinese Government will continue to encourage Chinese companies to conduct cooperation with the Myanmar (Burma) side based on the principle of mutual benefit, so that our joint projects will promote economic development of Myanmar and bring benefits to both peoples,” said China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Gao Mingbo.
However locals near the massive copper mine remain incensed over the commission’s support of the continuation of the project.
“Should the [project] continue as recommended in the report, the Latpadaung Mountain will surely be destroyed and it will be a huge, irreplaceable loss for both Monywa town and local farmers and villagers,” said Ahunt Maung, a local resident and member of Save the Latpadaung Committee.
“As the saying goes: ‘A forest can be regrown, but a mountain cannot.’”
Another local who took the microphone during the town hall meeting said the area needs greater investment in education, healthcare and environmental protection.
“We have a large population of students but not enough school facilities for them and we would like to make a call for that,” said the local during a question and answer session at the press conference.
“Also, drinking water sources we have here are no longer clean so I would also like a call to provide clean drinking water for us.”
At one point Suu Kyi engaged in a heated exchange with locals who questioned whether they would be properly compensated for losses incurred by the mining project.
According to a report in the AFP, Suu Kyi warned residents that if the copper mine was cancelled, Burma would lose the trust of its neighbours, especially China.
“The other country (China) might think that our country cannot be trusted on the economy,” said Suu Kyi reported the AFP.
“We have to get along with the neighbouring country whether we like it or not.”
The copper mine project has led to the confiscation of about 7,800 acres of farmland in total and forced farmers from 66 villages in the area to relocate, according to activists.