The Karen National Union (KNU) and villagers from the upper Pawklo area of Southern Burma are in agreement that a Thai coalmine operating in Tha Nay Kler area, has to protect environment and make sure that local water sources are not polluted.
The agreement was reached at a meeting on June 15 that was held in Ka Taw Ni village between the KNU’s Mergui-Tavoy District leaders and villagers from Ka Taw Ni, Maw Ma Tru, Tha Nay Kler, Htoo Ler and Kaw Htee. Representatives from the Thai company, East Star were also present at the meeting.
More than 100 villagers attended the meeting to tell the KNU of their concerns that they did not want their water sources contaminated by the mine. Villagers claim that the East Star Company has violated an agreement that it had reached with the KNU.
In the meeting Saw Paw May, a representative of Ka Taw Ni village, alleged that the East Star’s mine had polluted the area. Saw Paw May accused the company at the meeting and said.
“The company’s coal mining is on the villager’s land, the KNU’s permit [to mine] states that the mining has to be outside of the villagers land. Their [East Star] mining has polluted the nearby stream, Tha Blu Poe. A land slide from the mining site damaged the water sources.”
East Star is a joint venture between a Burmese owned company, May Flower, and received its 25 years concession from the government in Nay Pyi Daw, to mine for coal in the Pawklo area.
Until the recent ceasefire between the Burma Army and the KNU the area was a conflict area and is still under the control of the Karen. The company sought permission from the KNU to mine and was granted it in 2011 on a yearly basis. The KNU agreement is for the company to renew its permit each year.
The KNU permit, limits large scale coal mining to 60 acres and the company’s agreement set by the KNU, states that the company is only allowed to mine outside village areas to avoid damage to farmland, waterways and to the environment.
Saw Eh Wah, from Tha Nay Kler village said.
“The land slide from the mining site destroyed my betel nut trees.”
Villagers voiced their concern that mine could impact on their future health and now want the mine to stop its operation.
Naw Paw Bler form Ka Taw Ni said.
“We worry that the coal mining will damage our health and for generations to come. We don’t want our children to suffer from the effects of the mining – we don’t want the coal mining in our area.”
Following negotiations between the KNU and villagers an agreement was reached that the mine would not expand its operation from the 60 acres permitted by the KNU and that the company had to follow procedures that would protect the health and safety of the villagers and the environment.
Villagers presented four-points of concern to the company for it to adhere to.
Saw Ker Ler from Ma Ma Tru village said,
“We want the company to guarantee and ensure to protect the mining not to pollute the stream nearby, not impact on the villagers plantations, no impact on our health and protect their mining site land and rock slide into the villagers plantations.”
The KNU leaders agreed to the villagers concern and assure that the KNU will talk with the company and add more villagers concern for the company to follow.
The KNU leaders P’doh Saw Beeler outlined the villagers’ position.
“The four points presented by the villagers will be added to a 10-point set of regulations that the company has to follow in order to get any future permit. The KNU will meet with the company to set down the rules it has to follow and if an agreement cannot be reached with the company a permit will not be granted.
The KNU insists the coal mining should be done outside villagers’ land. Despite the regulations East Star Company has started to extract coal from villagers land. The company said it has negotiated with the landowners and has paid them compensation.