Villagers in Ka Taw Ni village in Southern Burma alleged that a Thai coal mining company used the local Burmese Army to threaten them for protesting for the closure of its coal mine.
A villager in Ka Taw Ni, who asked not to be named for fear for his security, told Karen News.
“On November 30, a group of Burma Army of about 7 armed soldiers led by 2nd Battalion Commander, Ko Ko Oo from Infantry Battalion 62, based in Htoo Ler (Kyat Htone) village came to meet me.”
The villager said that the soldiers threatened him.
“They told me that we were trying to disturb and protest the operation of the coalmine that had been granted a permit from the central government. He threatened me that I have no authority protest the continuing for the operation of the mine.”
A Thai company, East Star, is a joint venture with a Burmese owned company, the May Flower. The two companies were granted a 25-year concession by the government to mine for coal in the Paw Klo area near to Ka Taw Ni village.
The company also received permission from the Karen National Union’s Mergui-Tavoy District to mine in 2011. The KNU agreement states that the company must renew its permit every year.
In October 2013, the KNU stopped the mine after villagers complained about the negative impact of the mine on local people. Karen News is led to understand that the companies failed to follow the agreement that their mining operation would not pollute the villagers water sources or destroy their plantations.
Despite the KNU suspending its permission the coal mining operation stills continues, as they still have a deed issued by the Burma government.
The villagers allege that the East Star Company had also got permission from the KNU’s Karen National Liberation Army-KNLA No 4 Brigade Commander.
“When we went to meet the company and asked what permission they had from the KNU to continue its mining. They brought us a letter of permission that was authorized by the No 4 Brigade Commander, but not from the KNU district leaders.”
The villagers allege that the East Star Company approached the local Burma Army units to get their help to deal and threaten the villagers.
“The last time we went to meet the company responsible person the company asked the Burmese soldiers to guard their mine. Now we [villagers] are scared to say anything or to meet with the company to talk with them about our concerns. We are worried for the ongoing mining that we fear will destroy our village and affect our village well into the future.”