Myanmar Wanbao Mining Copper Ltd has confirmed that it has pressed kidnapping charges against activists who detained two of its Chinese employees overnight while demanding that the mining project be closed down.
Speaking to DVB on Monday, Wanbao spokesman Dong Yunfei said that the firm had pressed charges of kidnapping at the police station in Monywa against whoever was responsible for detaining their staffers on 18 May.
“We cannot accept this kind of criminal action, whether it is against our Chinese or Myanmar employees,” he said. “It is terrible.”
He said that the two Chinese employees – Lu Yuanhao and Miu Jie, both 23 – had their hands bound with rope and held for more than 30 hours by local villagers. He told DVB that the men were not hurt or harmed during their detention, although an earlier press release stated that the men had been beaten and that death threats had been issued.
The Wanbao spokesman said that one of the detainees, Lu, was now suffering from mental trauma because of the ordeal. “He [Lu] wants to return to China for treatment, but we have requested that he stay here [in Burma] while legal proceedings take place,” he said.
A third abductee, a 21-year-old Burmese driver for the company named Khin Aung Moe, was released by his captors shortly after the three had been taken to the village of Seté.
Locals villagers from Latpadaung held a press conference on 22 May at the Myanmar Journalists Network office in Rangoon where they sought to clarify the abduction of the two Chinese nationals. A spokesman for the Latpadaung villagers insisted they did not kidnap the company staffs but only “detained” them for a short time while they stressed their demands regarding disputes over confiscated farmland.
Sanda Thiri, the abbot of a Buddhist monastery in neighbouring Zeetaw village who helped mediate the situation, said the villagers decided to detain the two Chinese as they were surveying the area to build fences on farmland for which the locals had not agreed to accept compensation.
“The villagers were disappointed with the company employees who continued fencing off their land even though compensation had not been agreed upon, despite repeated calls to desist sectioning off the disputed lands,” said Sanda Thiri.
“The two Wanbao employees were handed over to the company in the late afternoon on 19 May in front of the district administrator and a police commander who witnessed and confirmed that they had sustained no injuries,” he said. “This was neither an abduction nor a kidnapping.”
Seté residents at the press conference said locals from 26 villages in the area agreed on 19 May to hand over the two Chinese at Wanbao’s liaison office in Latpadaung after local district administrator Zaw Myo Nyunt pledged to prevent the company from building fences on local farmland, and to allow farmers to work on vacant land plots that are not being utilised in the mining project.
“I would like to make it clear that we did not kidnap the Chinese,” said Mar Mar Shwe, a villager from Zeetaw.
“They even admitted to us that they came to lay markers on the land to build more fences, and we treated them well before we handed them back to officials after the negotiations.”