Myanmar Cement Factory Protester Dies in Custody

myanmar-prison2-060519.jpg Mandalay's Obo Prison is shown in a June 5, 2019 photo.

A Myanmar villager arrested in May for protesting the construction of a Chinese-backed cement factory in the country’s central Mandalay region has died in police custody, sources in the region said.

Tun Myint Win, arrested on May 15 along with three others including a television reporter, died Wednesday morning in Mandalay’s Obo Prison, the dead man’s brother told RFA’s Myanmar Service, adding that Tun Myint Win had been in good health before his arrest.

Arriving at the prison to learn how Tun Myint Win had died, family members were told that his body had been taken to Mandalay Hospital for an autopsy to determine his cause of death, and that the body would be delivered to them on Thursday, the brother said.

Attempts to reach the Obo Prison warden for comment were unsuccessful Wednesday.

Around 20 people were injured on May 15 after police fired rubber bullets and tear gas into a crowd protesting construction work at the Alpha Cement Plant near Aungthabyae village in Kyaukse district’s Patheingyi township, sources told RFA in earlier reports.

The factory is operated as part of a joint venture between a local firm and a Chinese partner.

During the protest, villagers blocked factory vehicles and demanded compensation for land they say they lost when an 18-foot-wide road was built as part of the project.

They also urged authorities to address what they said were problems caused by an influx of hundreds of Chinese employees working at the site.

Some demonstrators set four vehicles and part of the factory property on fire, according to a village resident.

The detained villagers and a reporter from Channel Mandalay TV who had live-streamed the protest on Facebook now face possible jail time on charges including abetting criminal conduct and causing grievous harm to deter public servants from performing their duties, one source said.

Though a heavy police presence restored calm to the area near the plant by the evening of May 15, villagers demanded that the project to update the plant’s cement production capacity be scrapped and that those detained by police be released, sources said.

Reported by RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khin Maung Nyane. Written in English by Richard Finney.


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