Mon 25 Aug 2014
Filed under: Human Rights,Inside Burma,News
Tight security surrounded the re-consecration of a famed Buddhist stupa, which once stood on the site of the Latpadaung copper mine in Sagaing Division, central Burma.
The fate of the temples has become a major sticking point with local villagers, who have maintained fierce opposition to the mine.
In late March, the complex was de-consecrated, dissembled and removed from its original foundation, sparking widespread disaffection among the local congregation, who feared it may be destroyed.
Yet the temple complex made famous by a former presiding abbot, the venerable Ledi Sayadaw Nanadhaja, was reopened on Saturday, just over a kilometre down the road.
But it has not been enough to abate the locals, who were barred from attending the reopening ceremony.
Protestors gathered outside the old complex made new, as Sagaing Division’s chief Minister Thar Aye and fellow members of the Union Solidarity and Development Party observed the ceremonial placing of an umbrella on the top of the pagoda.
“We need access to a pagoda, whichever it maybe,” one protestor announced to the crowd.
“We were blocked on the way and we had to pass through the mud,” she explained.
“And when we arrived, we weren’t allowed in. We’ve been forced to conduct our prayers from a distance.”
The snub follows the unwillingness of the state religious authority to allow locals to participate in the de-consecration of the revered temple and ordination hall in March.
Also present at Saturday’s ceremony were representatives from the Latpadaung Copper Project Investigation Commission, which guaranteed the integrity of the sacred site in its investigation into human rights abuses at the mine.
The commission was formed in late 2012, to inquire about the use of chemical weapons against monks protesting at the site. The committee was chaired by Aung San Suu Kyi, who lent her support to the continuation of the project.
Villagers have remained unbending in their opposition to the giant mine, which is jointly owned by the Military-linked Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings and Wanbao, a subsidiary of Chinese state arms manufacturer Norinco.
While some villagers have accepted compensation for land confiscated by the companies for the project, many have refused, demanding the return of their lands.
Health issues have also abounded, with residents complaining of fumes from a local acid factory burning their children’s eyes.
In May, local consternation manifested in the kidnapping of two Chinese employees from the site.
Now, shunned from the entire relocation process for the hallowed temple, tempers have flared once again.