Photo Exhibition: Latpaudang Copper Mine – a ‘Resources Curse’

Yesterday, a photo exhibition, ‘Resources Curse’ opened in Bahan Township, Rangoon. The exhibition, organized by the Green Heart Environment Network, draws attention to the contentious Latpaudang Copper Mining Project.

U Soe Win Nyein, a graphic artist and an organizer of the exhibition told Karen News that the purpose of the exhibition was to make people more aware of the social hardships faced by residents after they leave their villages, and how much the environment has been impacted by the Latpadaung project.

The photo exhibition showcased copper being excavated, protest against the mine by residents’, and snapshots of the day-to-day lives of villagers. According to one journalist, a company in Myanmar, Paung Company, produced a book with all the photos from the exhibition that was given to journalists.

Over 90 photos and cartoons were displayed at the exhibition that also included a poetry recital competition. U Ant Maung, a photographer and resident of Mon Ywar, stressed that this exhibition was intended to help stop the copper mining. U Ant Maung said unless the mining project was cancelled, the resentment of the Burmese people towards the Chinese government would only grow, and could affect bilateral relations between the two governments.

U Ant Maung pointed out that as Latpadaung Mountain was over one mile distance from Chin Twin River, the liquid waste from the mine that now flows into the Irrawaddy River could seriously affect the environment. Currently a government-backed investigation is under way, and its commission will release its final report at the end of March.

Meanwhile, a lawyers group, the Burma Lawyers Network and a U.S. based legal rights organization, the Justice Trust, allege that Burma government authorities coerced villagers to ‘release’ their farmland for the extension of the controversial Chinese-operated Letpadaung copper mine.

A joint investigative report released by the groups last week, allege local officials, including police, used excessive force to scare off protesters opposed to the mine. They are calling for an investigation of senior government officials and officers of the military-operated mine.

In November 2012, when hundreds of villagers demonstrated against a $1 billion expansion of the Latpaudang Copper Mine Project, the report claims, that police used excessive force against the protesters.

Roger Normand, the director of the legal rights group, Justice Trust, said more than 150 protesters, including Buddhist monks, were seriously injured. Some suffered second and third-degree burns. Roger Normand claims the investigation and laboratory tests are prove that police used white phosphorous smoke grenades on the demonstrators.

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