Myanmar: Letpadaung residents refuse compensation despite new contract
|Publisher||Radio Free Asia|
|Publication Date||2 August 2013|
|Cite as||Radio Free Asia, Myanmar: Letpadaung residents refuse compensation despite new contract, 2 August 2013, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/520215548.html [accessed 30 March 2017]|
|Disclaimer||This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.|
Security forces move in to stop protesters plowing fields near the Letpadaung copper mine, April 25, 2013. RFA
A majority of the villagers living near the Chinese-backed Letpadaung copper mine in northern Myanmar continue to refuse compensation for land seized for the project's expansion despite revisions made to the contract for the controversial venture, according to local activists.
Last week, officials had announced that the contract with the Chinese operator of the mine in Sagaing region had been revised to give the Myanmar government a greater share of its revenues, paving the way for operations to resume after protests forced their suspension.
Aung San Oo, a representative of a group representing the affected villagers, said that the revised deal ignores their demands and that most residents of the villages surrounding the mine are refusing compensation offers which were much lower than current market rates.
"About 30 percent of local residents accepted compensation," while the rest have refused, he said.
Those who do accept the compensation are those whose land has already become unusable because of the mine, said Aung San Oo, who is a resident of Tone village near the mine.
"Some of the land has already had buildings constructed on it or soil dug from the mine left on it. The owners of those areas accept the compensation because they can't do anything on their land anymore."
"Most people don't accept it because the compensation they are offered is much lower than the current market rate."
Residents protesting against the project in June said that they were refusing the payments, about U.S. $1,000 [1,000,000 kyat] per household, because they were insufficient and residents would rather see a complete halt to the project.
The Letpadaung contract has been revised to give the Myanmar government 51 percent of its revenues, in an apparent bid to assuage public anger by giving the nation a share of the profits.
A brutal crackdown on protests against the mine in November last year provoked a public uproar and prompted the government to form an inquiry commission headed by opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi to look into the future of the mine.
The commission recommended earlier this year that the project, which was run as a joint venture between Chinese company Myanmar Wanbao Mining Copper Limited and the Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings (UMEHL), be allowed to continue.
Residents still complain about the compensation sum even though Aung San Suu Kyi had said that it will be paid at current rates recommended in her parliamentary commission's report.
Under last week's new deal, Chinese company Wanbao, which operates the mine, is now entitled to 30 percent of the revenue and UMEHL to 19 percent.
The new terms also stipulate that two percent of net profits from the project go toward corporate social responsibility with a focus on immediate communities.
'Nothing has happened yet'
Aung San Oo said promises for improvements recommended by the inquiry commission have not yet materialized.
"They didn't do anything that was recommended by the Letpadaung Inquiry Commission," he said.
"For instance, they said that they are going to build hospitals and wells, but nothing has happened yet."
Operations at the mine, which were suspended in November, are expected to resume within two months, local journal The Irrawaddy quoted Hla Tun, a union minister from the President's Office who chairs the Letpadaung mining project implementation committee, as saying last week.
Reported by Tin Aung Khine for RFA's Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Rachel Vandenbrink.