Villagers condemn logging and mining

Activists hold a press conference in Yangon to condemn Chindwin gold mining and logging (Credit: Phyo Wai)

A press conference was held in Pabedan Township, Yangon, on June 16 exposing illegal mining and logging operations along the Chindwin River in Kachin State and Sagaing Region.

The event, organised by the Red Shan Youth group and Kuki Women's Centre, claimed that more than 70 per cent of young residents along the river were drug addicts while more than 50 villages had lost land due to gold mining and logging.

They said illegal activities had destroyed around 60 per cent of the forests along the river.

Researchers claimed that more than 250,000 acres in Kaniare was being used for illegal and legal gold mining.

Activists told the media that farmland was polluted, water was poisoned, pits were left after gold mining, livestock died and rape cases were blamed on exploitation by outsiders.

“After the Htamanthi Dam was finished, they started logging and gold mining followed. Some mines were legal but others weren't. They claim to be legal but there are many who outsourced logging to others. Initially, it seems all right but once companies decide to move their sites, they disappear without cleaning the area. There are also rape cases and matters get settled quietly by the elders regardless of whether the victims, young girls, agree with the decision. Now the women do not dare to leave their homes without company,” said activist Boi Nu.

“There used to be teak all along the river but everything is being chopped down. The logging companies are giving heroin to their workers. Now that they have become addicts, villages that have never had anything stolen have thefts in broad daylight. When we report these drug issues, the authorities will come and check for a while but soon disappear without any arrests. It is corrupt. The mining ministry has laws that say once mining has finished, the quarries need to be filled and trees planted but no company does that,” said Sai San Toin.

The activists said that they would bring their demands to the government and if they went unheeded, they said they would collect signatures for a petition.