Latpadaung villagers, activists and academics have rejected a report by the committee charged with implementing the recommendations of the copper mine investigation commission. The report blames “a handful of people who are on an utterly destructive course with the project”.
The committee’s report, dated 5 January, claims that all locals in Latpadaung received compensation for confiscated land – amounting to 20-times the tax they paid for it – in accordance with the Land Confiscation Law in 2011.
Win Myo Thu of the environmental conservation group Green Motherland said the villagers had been paid only a few hundred kyat, since 20-times the land tax did not amount to much.
“The land tax is only a few hundred kyat. Suppose it was 100 kyat [US$0.10]. Twenty times 100 amounts to only 2,000 kyat,” Win Myo Thu said. “Anyone who says – just because they were paid this amount – that the farmers were compensated in accordance with the land must have absolutely no shame.”
The implementation committee’s report on Monday stressed that the mining project operators – Myanmar Wanbao, a joint venture between Burma’s military-backed Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings and Chinese state-run mining firm Wanbao – were moving ahead with recommendations. It also claimed that 10.7 billion kyat worth of compensation and welfare stipends had been paid to villagers.
However, Khin San Hlaing, a member of the investigation commission and a lower house MP from the National League for Democracy in Sagaing’s Pale Township, criticised the implementing committee’s report for repeating the same rhetoric that it has been delivering to MPs and local villagers. She said it does not reflect the situation on the ground.
“We see that neither the committee nor Myanmar Wanbao has been able to resolve the issues on the ground, mainly because they do not seriously address or respect the feelings of the local population and their general disappointment,” Khin San Hlaing said.
Latpadaung villager Thwe Thwe Win slammed the report’s claim that there were “instigators” behind the protests.
“If the [committee] is so sure that there were instigators behind us, then they should come and arrest those people,” she said. “Just mouthing about ‘instigations’ while taking no action whatsoever will not make any difference.”
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.