Myanmar authorities have charged 50 farmers with assault, illegal assembly, illegal demonstration, and destruction of state property for blocking the road to the controversial Chinese-run Letpadaung copper mine in the country’s northwestern Sagaing region, a police officer said Monday.
“We have charged them under Penal Code Section 333, Section 143, and Section 19 for assaulting police who were on duty, illegal assembly, and illegal demonstrating,” said Htay Win, a police officer in Salingyi township where the mine is located.
As many as 10 villagers and six police officers were injured on March 24 during a clash when police fired rubber bullets at locals who were blocking the access road in protest against Wanbao Mining Copper Ltd.
The villagers confronted police in the area and were told to disperse, but refused to do so.
Local residents frequently prevent trucks from entering and leaving the premises to express their frustration that the company has not yet given them land they were supposed to receive as compensation for damage from the construction of the project to the villagers’ crops and to their economic well-being.
Residents have also accused the company’s trucks of knocking down people and cows and said they want drivers who work for the firm to be more responsible and use other routes to access the mine.
In response to the March 24 incident, township authorities issued an order banning local villagers from forming assemblies of more than five people, blocking the road, and carrying swords, machetes, slingshots, and inflammable materials.
Local residents have heavily criticized the Chinese operators of the mine for expropriating land without providing them adequate compensation and damaging the environment.
Reported by Thiri Min Zin for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.