Villagers in Myanmar retake land from mining company

Originally published by Mizzima on 04/01/16

No land is left for our people […] so we came and retook our lands.

About 300 local people and their supporters took back their land from Myanmar Sithu Gold Mining Company at Yayhtwet village, Chaunggyi village-tracts, Thapeikyin Township, Pyinoolwin district, Mandalay Region on 3 January.

They were supported by people from Patheingyi, Madaya and Singu townships.

They said that they had to retake their land after gold mining companies began mining there. Gold mining companies doing business around their village were Myanmar Sithu, Letpanpyant Regional Development Company and Wai Lin Htike Company.

A local villager May Lwin said, “No land is left for our people for our own business. All lands are for them. The land they are mining now is the land discovered by our ancestors. We have been doing business in these lands on a small scale. These lands were taken from us and these companies bully us. These lands are our village lands so we came and retook our lands today.”

Photo: Aung Ko Oo / Mizzima

Photo: Aung Ko Oo / Mizzima

Villagers have repeatedly lodged complaints against gold mining companies in the area to the Mining Ministry and Mandalay Region government since 2012, but the authorities did not reply or settle the dispute. In fact, local people were accused of trespassing on company land and stealing gold resulting in charges brought against them,the villagers said.

Abbot Nandaw Bartha from Yayhtwet village monastery said, “People have lost patience and now they have retaken their land by force. The government did not settle their dispute on lands which are village lands listed in the Home Ministry gazette. The regional government transferred these lands to mining companies knowingly and have intentionally created conflict with local people. As far as we know these mining companies are doing their mining business illegally here.”

Villager Zaw Naing said, “About 40-50 people are standing here with swords in their hands. In previous days, there were only about 20 people working here regularly. Today it is different. And I heard that the fences are now electrified. I see the situation at close range. As a local, I will fight back if they hit our people. I have no fear.”

Despite rumours being circulated about electrified fences, no one was injured and the company did not attempt to block villagers from entering their premises.

Myanmar Sithu Gold Mining Company Manager Myo Htut said, “We cannot do business here without permission given by the State. The authorities concerned will come and settle this dispute. We do not have anything to say.”

Toe Gyi who led the villagers said, “We have retaken our land by placing flags on the boundaries of it. Starting from tomorrow, we will begin our gold mining work together while we are awaiting settlement of the dispute by the government.”

Thapeikkyin Township Administrator Ko Ko Hlaing said, “We have to take action against those who violate the law. We have not yet received any complaints from anyone.”

Thapeikkyin police station did not reply when contacted.

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