Letpadaung copper mining suspended as tension mounts

Min Min Soe and Yan Paing

Sagaing Region chief minister Dr Myint Naing has suspended the Letpadaung copper mining project to prevent further tension between the local residents and trucks carrying copper.

"It is true that mining at Letapdaung has halted. It had to be done, as otherwise further problems will arise. I cannot say when it will reopen - we have to review the situation," said the chief minister.

The local people said they had also closed the protest camp at the top of Moegyopyin village in Letpaduang region, Salingyi Township, Sagaing Region, as mining stopped. They said the camp would reopen if copper mining restarts along the route.

Ten farmers were reportedly injured in a police crackdown at the copper mining project on March 24, according to residents. Police used rubber bullets to disperse the farmers who had been blocking trucks from the mine at the Pathein-Monwya junction. They are now reportedly receiving treatment at home to cure their injuries as they fear they could be arrested by police if they are in hospital.

"A total of 10 people were injured. They dare not go to hospital fearing arrest. Some villagers were once in hospital after a car overturned but they received no proper treatment and care. So this time, they have to treat themselves conventionally at home. They have bruises now, and they are also have a raised temperature due to their injuries," said Than Mya, one injured local woman from Moegyopyin village.

On March 22, Salingyi Township General Administration Department issued a statement that the blockade must end or face a police crackdown. The statement banned any assembly, walking protest or protest march of five people and above, chanting slogans, incitement, violence and carrying weapons and incendiary devices.