Tanitharyi Villagers Meet with Companies and Authorities to Discuss Problems Caused by Coal Mining

A meeting between villagers, company officials and officials from both the Karen National Union and the government was held on Tuesday, January 6 to discuss and resolve problems of land destruction caused by coal mining in Southern Burma’s Tanitharyi Division.

Coal mining carried out by May Flower company, Thai Asset Company and East Star Company in the area of Ban Chaung near Ka Htaung Ni village, East of Dawei in Tanitharyi Divisoun met with protests by local villagers, members of civil society organizations and religious leaders claiming it caused destruction to their land and to the environment.

Before the January 6 meeting held at Ka Htaung Ni village, communities in the area had made several calls and petitioned both the government and KNU officials stop the mining.

The government and the KNU initially granted concession for mining to go ahead to the companies.

Attending the meeting were the Minister of Energy from Nay Pyi Daw, U Myan Ko, the Chief Minister for the Tanitharyi Region, Colonel Aung Lwin, the Karen State’s Border Affair Minister and Brigadier General Saw Dah Kyaw Hla, Commander of the Karen National Liberation Army’s 4th Brigade and representatives from the companies and local villagers.

A villager from the area who asked not to be named told Karen News what was discussed about the mining projects at the meeting.

“The focus was on the issue of what would be done to the lands that had been destroyed by the mining projects. Villagers’ views on compensation for the loss were also discussed. They didn’t discuss about totally stopping the projects. It was [an opportunity] to hear what the community want.”

Since early 2014, protests organised by local communities prevented the companies transporting out the mined coal.

Saw San Ngwe, a member of a civil society group called Southern Youth Social Development Association told Karen News that although the companies pushed for a deal to compensate for the loss of villagers’ lands and plantations, local communities want the companies to completely pull out of all mining projects in the area.

Speaking to Karen News, Saw San Ngwe said.

“The coal mining has caused massive destruction to the plantations of local villagers. So, it is important that the companies, and both the KNU and government officials listen to the voice of the people on what they want to be done with the problem.”

Villagers, civil society groups including environmental groups and political groups previously made complaints to the company on October 27, 2014 claiming that the miners were not transparent and failed to take responsibility. The companies were also accused of violating human rights in carrying out its mining.

The Tanitharyi Division is currently undergoing massive resources extractions, agricultural and development projects, including the Dawei $60 billion mega project that includes, a deep-sea port, industrial zone, rail and road links to Thailand, power plants and refineries.

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