United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on human rights in Burma, Tomás Ojea Quintana, arrived in Monywa, Sagaing Division, on Monday to meet with villagers living near the controversial Latpadaung Copper Mine.
The area has seen several rounds of protest over the China-backed mining project, several of which turned violent and resulted in an investigation led by opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi. While the investigation concluded that the project was fit to continue, locals have maintained opposition to the development on the grounds that they are losing their lands and suffering mistreatment at the hands of project operators.
Wet Hmey villager Thwe Thwe Win, well known across Burma as an anti-mine activist, was among invitees to the high-profile meeting, held in Monywa’s Winyu Nadi Hotel.
“Locals at the meeting informed Quintana of human rights violations committed by the Wanbao Mining Company and the Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings – our children didn’t get to study in 2011 and the village monastery was shut down and demolished late that year,” she said.
“Moreover, the [project operators] have been abusing their authority and laying fences upon our farmland without negotiating with us.”
Thwe Thwe Win said she showed the UN official a photo she took with Aung San Suu Kyi, chairperson of the Latpadaung Investigation Commission, when she came to town last year. She said that he expressed belief that Suu Kyi will not neglect the villagers.
Locals said the conference lasted about 30 minutes. Quintana also met with Sagaing Division government officials before heading back to Naypyidaw to conclude his ninth and final visit to Burma as Special Rapporteur.
The Rapporteur is expected to publish his report on the human rights situation in Burma on 17 March.