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Monywa copper mine protesters lack supplies

The 200 protesters who continue to “sit-in”  at Ledi camp on Latpadaung Mountain in Sagaing Division are suffering from a lack of food, water and medicine, said one of the protest organizers.

“I am one of those living in the Ledi Sayadaw Buddhist temple,” said civic society group leader Aung Soe, speaking to Mizzima. “We badly need food, drinking water and medicines. Up here on the mountain, it is very cold at night. Many protesters have caught colds and coughs. The change in the weather may also bring on bouts of flu.”

Comprising local farmers, Buddhist monks, students, NGO activists and local residents, the protest group has launched a sit-in since June to protest plans to build a series of copper mine through the mountain and the local landscape by two mining companies, Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings Limited and China’s Wanbao Company.
laepatoungdemo1Villagers said the mining companies have illegally confiscated more than 8,000 acres (3,237 hectares) of farmland from 26 villages in Sarlingyi since 2011.

Environmental groups say the copper mine and its residue waste poses grave hazards to the local residents and the ecosystem.

The protest organizers this week urged the authorities to let them carry food to the hilltop site by car and truck. Currently only motorbikes are permitted to ascend the mountain with supplies.

Aung Soe said that the authorities were trying to create such unpleasant conditions that the protesters will move their camp elsewhere and vacate Latpadaung Mountain.

“Several times, the local authorities have come and ordered us to move to the foot of the mountain,” said Aung Soe. “But we will never move. We will sacrifice our lives if necessary.

“From this camp on top of the mountain, we can travel quickly to any of the 33 projects sites if work begins. If we set up camp at the foot of the mountain, they will not care what we say. They will start work on the mountain by blasting.”

Aung Soe told Mizzima that they have been petitioning the company to suspend the project until late March 2013. He said the protesters are hoping that the matter will be discussed in Parliament.

However, recent reports indicate China is growing wary of the rising rural demonstrations over land confiscation.  
The Chinese Ambassador to Burma said Beijing would stop backing the Monywa copper mine if the project did not benefit Burma, according to a Radio Free Asia report in October.  
“If this project brings no benefit to the Myanmar [Burmese] people, the Chinese government will not support or endorse it,” Ambassador Li Junhua said at a press conference, according to a press release posted on the Facebook page of the Chinese Embassy in Burma. “Because it not only concerns the image of the Chinese company, but also the image of China and the Chinese government,” he said.

His comments came the same day, October 21, as an opinion piece in Chinese state media’s Global Times newspaper said Chinese companies need to “attach more importance to grassroots voices” in carrying out investment projects such as the Monywa mine.

The protesters’ Ledi camp is a historical site where a highly respected Buddhist monk, the Venerable Ledi Sayadaw (1846-1923), fasted and practiced meditation.

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Last Updated ( Wednesday, 28 November 2012 17:56 )  

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