Villagers from the Lun Nya Mountain area sent a petition to the Karen State Chief Minister on November 22 to protest companies quarrying rock on Lun Nya Mountain, in Hpa-an township, Karen State.
Saw Khite Khite, director at Lun Nya Mountain’s Environment Conservation Committee, said that the purpose of the petition was to get the state government to take legal actions against the rock quarry because the project did not have the approval of the local community. Villagers alleged that the Chit Lin Myaing TOYOTA Company, the Loon Nya village’s head and religious leaders signed the rock quarry business contract without getting the consent of the majority of villagers.
“We absolutely cannot accept the rock quarrying.” Saw Khite Khite told Karen News, adding that “the Company didn’t get permission from our local villagers. The signing doesn’t represent the locals. Local people disagree with this project. We sent the petition to the state government to solve this matter.”
The Lun Nya Mountain is home to historic pagodas, is a tourist attraction such as is the blue water of Lun Nya Lake where the rock quarrying takes place. To conserve the ancient pagodas and environment, 900 local people from Lun Nya village, Tantar Oo village, Kaw’ Khay village and Indu San Pya village signed the petition sent to the Karen State Chief Minister, Nan Khin Htway Myint.
At a press conferences held on November 22, local villagers claimed that as a consequences of the rock quarry, some of the village houses near the quarry site cracked, drinking water and farm land in the area were destroyed. Community leaders warned that if the State government did not stop the rock quarrying project they will send the petition to the President.
The villagers also petition claims that the China Road and Bridge Corporation (C.R.B.C), a Chinese company is also rock quarrying at the mountainside without the local permission. It is claimed by villagers that the Chinese company who had the contract for the Kawkareik-Indu Asia Highway construction and the Chit Lin Myaing Company were quarrying the mountain. Villagers say that containers and boxes of tools and machines including stone mills, asphalt mixing machines and other related machinery have been brought to the site.
In response to petition, U Saw Pyi, Karen State Minister of Resources, Environmental Conservation and Mining Department, spoke to Karen News, but was unable to shed any light on the case.
“We don’t know the details yet. The issue related to the gravel for road construction is handled by [Township] General Chief Administrator. I handle cases that are directly related to mining. Rock quarrying is handled by the General Chief Administrator.”
Karen News made several phone calls to try to reach [Township] General Chief Administrator, U Thawdar Nyein for a response, but the calls went unanswered.
At the press conference held on te rock quarrying at Lun Nya Mountain on November 22, villagers stated that there were 23 rock quarrying sites operated, by both villagers and foreign companies at Lun Nya Mountainside. Even though those rock quarries need to be closed down this year, Chit Lin Myaing Toyota Company – owned by Saw Chit Thu, came back again, saying that the quarry is needed for the survival of families of the four Karen armed groups.
The concerns of Lun Nya locals arose in November 15 when an unknown armed group shot and threatened villagers who went to the Lun Nya Mountain to inspect the rock quarrying sites.