10,000 villagers protest farmland confiscation


6 September, Mizzima News

A huge demonstration at a Burmese state copper mining company on Wednesday saw farmers asking that their land be returned.

Famers protest in Sarlingyi township on Wednesday, September 5, 2012. Photo: Aung Nay Myo / Facebook
Famers protest in Sarlingyi township on Wednesday, September 5, 2012. Photo: Aung Nay Myo / Facebook

Villagers said that Union of Myanmar Economic Holding and Wan Bao Co., which is a subsidiary of China North Industries Co., illegally confiscated more than 7,800 acres of their farmland from 26 villages in Sarlingyi Township since the partners began mining copper in 2011, according to an article on the Radio Free Asia (RFA) website on Thursday.

Farmers marched from the site of the Monywa copper mine, located in the Latpadaung mountain range in Saigang Division’s Sarlingyi Township, but were stopped by more than 200 government security personnel and company officials, a villager told RFA.

She said that protesters then burned in effigy three coffins to display their opposition to laws that enabled the authorities to impose curfews as well as a Chinese company Wan Bao Co. and the military-backed firm Union of Myanmar Economic Holding Ltd, which are jointly developing the mining venture.

“This is our land and it was unjustly taken,” she said.

Also taking part in protests were members of the Student Union of Mandalay, Farmers said.

Some 500 villagers have been protesting near the Wan Bao Co. offices since August to demand adequate compensation, the return of confiscated lands, a stop to forced relocations, the reopening of locked monasteries, and an end to the dumping of waste on their fields.

Wan Bao company recently told journalists that it had paid 5,200 kyat (U.S. $60) in compensation per acre of confiscated farmland in April 2011, but the villagers say that they wanted to maintain land they have farmed for generations in order to earn a living.

Tensions have risen in recent weeks as the company has continued digging at the site and dumping waste soil on the confiscated land despite a request to suspend work and enter negotiations, farmers said.

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