Two Chinese employees of Myanmar Wanbao Mining Copper Ltd who were apprehended and detained by local villagers in Seté on Sunday have been released, the Chinese firm has announced.
“We are very happy to declare that our two Chinese colleagues kidnapped by the activists have been released, and they came back to the camp at 7:15pm local time [on Monday night]. They are in good shape. We would like to take this opportunity thank all the media for your attention to this incident and also all the villagers and village elders who contacted us and offered their help to release our colleagues,” the company said in a statement.
“We also thank local government officials for their efforts in the release of the two young people in a peaceful manner.”
Seté villager and anti-mine activist Win Win Htay said the two Wanbao staffers were released around 6pm on Monday. He said the Chinese employees, thought to be surveyors, were “‘held for just a short time – not abducted”, adding that the two men were returned unharmed.
“We have handed over the two Chinese following a meeting at the Wanbao office with Mining Minister Hla Tun, District Administrator Zaw Myo Nyunt, and a police colonel named Nay Tun from Monywa,” said Win Win Htay.
“We had administrator Zaw Myo Nyunt and the police colonel stand witness to the fact that we did not cause any bodily harm to the two Chinese – in contrast to the company’s claim that we beat them up – and we asked the two men to clarify to the media that we did not beat them up and that we treated them well,” he said.
He concluded by noting that the officials at Monday’s meeting did not make any guarantee or promise not to seek legal action upon those concerned with the incident.
Originally, three staff members of Myanmar Wanbao – two Chinese nationals and their Burmese driver – were seized when they appeared to be taking measurements of land plots around Seté. This reportedly infuriated locals whose lands had been confiscated by the company and its Burmese partners, the military-backed Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings.
The Burmese driver was later released but the two Chinese surveyors were detained while negotiations continued.
Myanmar Wanbao on Monday issued a statement saying the men had been beaten and that death threats had been made. The activists, or villagers, originally demanded the complete shutdown of the Latpadaung copper mine in exchange for their release, the firm said.