Mine pollutions kills villager’s plantations – government fails to act

Wearing a torn grey t-shirt and shorts, U Aung Sein paddles his small bamboo raft across the muddy water reservoir that surrounds his dead betel nut plantation. He lays out his fishing net in the dirty water, but expects there will not be any fish.

U Aung Sein says he is not a fisherman by choice, but since dirty run-off water from a nearby Thai tin mining operation has swamped his land he has little choice.

U Aung Sein says his plantation is slowing dying from the muddy water from Thai mine in Heinda, east of Tavoy. U Aung Sain, is from Ka Baw Chong village close to the Heida mining site.

U Aung Sein says it was tough when he lost his lost his right foot when he stood on a Burma Army land mine, but he now feels this time the flooding from the mine is worse and he could lose his four acres plantations and his house – everything he has worked for.

“When I leave my house I step on the water. My betel nut, coconut and durian trees are all dead. The only way for us to survive is abandon here and to move up the mountain.”

A Thai based company, Myanmar Pongpipat Company Ltd, operates a tin and tungsten mine in Heinda, 45 kilometer east of Tavoy. The Thai company has been there since July, 1999 after it was granted a contract from the former Burma military regime’s Ministry of Mines.
The run-off from the mine affects Ka Baw Chong village and 11 other villages down stream from Heinda (Kay Ta) and Kay Tu (Ba Wa Pin Chaung). Local villagers say Heinda mine has been polluting the water for more than 10-years and complaints from villagers affected by the pollution to the local authorities about the issue have been ignored. Three villagers in Ka Baw Chong village lost their land and plantations from the mine’s dirty water.

Ma Cho Tin is one of those villagers who lost her land and she told Karen News.

“I lost all my small and big plantations – 11 acres in total. We are not literate people so we dare not go and complain to the [mine] owner. They can do to us whatever they want to and we no choice but to accept it.”

Ma Cho Tin lost her plantations. Ma Cho Tin said.

“First the (company and local authority) told me they will pay me 1,500,000 kyat compensation, but they paid us only us only 500,000 kyat. The company owner son told us if we come and ask for compensation again, they would put us in jail. If we lose our land, we have nothing left, we have to work on as daily laborers and become the slave of others. When we go and collect tin outside the mine they arrest us.”

U Aung Sein is worn out and frustrated by the lack of action to their concerns.

“I went and told the company and the company manager, but they don’t even want to come to see the damage to our plantations.”

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