Thu 1 Nov 2012
Filed under: Business / Trade,Inside Burma,News
About 35 people from the restive Moehti Moemi gold mining region of Yamethin township protested in front of the Myanmar National Prosperity Public Company office in Yangon last week, one of the protesters said.
The group demonstrated outside the University Avenue office from 9am to midday on October 29, said Ko Youte Kyi, over the company’s conduct since taking over a lease in the mining area.
“We demanded compensation and to work freely like we were able to before. However, nobody from the company came out to meet us or say anything about it. After we protested, we went back to Yamethin at 5pm the same evening,” Ko Youte Kyi said.
He said the protest was held in Yangon because the group had twice been refused permission to hold it in Yamethin, in southern Mandalay Region.
They received permission from Kamaryut Township Police Station on October 29, said Daw Myint Myint Khine, who also took part in the protest.
She said organisers estimated about 1000 workers from Moehti Moemi would come to Yangon for the protest but because of financial difficulties only a few could make it.
“The reason we came here is because the company has not negotiated in good faith. They negotiated with Mandalay Region Minister [for Forestry and Mining] U Than Soe Myint on August 20 over this issue. Then the Farmland Investigation Commission came in October and negotiated with the company again. The organisation instructed the company to give compensation. However, the company was stubborn and didn’t do anything,” said Daw Myint Myint Khine.
But company spokesperson Daw Na Di Lwin told The Myanmar Times that the protesters who came to Yangon just didn’t want to work and are “obstreperous”.
“That’s why we don’t plan to do anything” to meet their demands, she said.
Daw Myint Myint Khine said the Moehti Moemi workers have applied to Kamaryut Township Police Station to protest again, from November 3 to 7, in front of the company’s office.
Myanmar National Prosperity won a tender to mine gold in the area in late 2011. But in June, workers from the hundreds of small mines at Moehti Moemi began protesting after the company allegedly reneged on an earlier verbal agreement to split all gold found in the area 50-50, The Irrawaddy reported on June 8.
The Chiang Mai-based news organisation reported Myanmar National Prosperity had made the promise to the small mining companies and individual miners in December 2011, saying they could excavate gold from the area for the duration of its five-year contract with the government.
When the protesting workers failed to reach an agreement with the company, they started marching on Nay Pyi Taw. The company then relented and agreed to allow small operators to continue mining at Moehti Moemi for another year, Democratic Voice of Burma reported on June 15.
However, the simmering unrest has continued since, with a number of miners charged with committing an obscene act and criminal intimidation in September.