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Villagers protest at coalmine – want KNU to revoke permission

Villagers in Tenasserim Division want the local Karen National Union to revoke permission given to a coalmine that villagers claim is polluting their waterways and damaging their plantations.

Paw Klo villagers, from east of Tavoy in Southern Burma, demand the Karen National Union (KNU) resolves the conflict between the coal mining company and the villagers and revoke their permission to allow coal mining in their village.

In a meeting with the KNU Mergui-District leaders at Kaw Htee village, over 100 local people from Ka Taw Ni and neighboring villagers urged the KNU leaders to reconsider its permission that it gave the Thai company, East Star, to coal mining near their villages.

East Star is a joint venture with the Burmese Company, May Flower, and has since 2011 a concession from the KNU and Burma government to mine for coal in Tha Blut Pa Doh village.

The villagers made their concerns known and read out a letter at the meeting.

“The coal mining concession is in the area of the villagers’ plantations and in the village. We don’t want the compensation offered by the company. The company is mining without care and have dumped coal in the nearby stream – the Blue Poe.”

The villagers alleged that the pollutions of the waters ways is effecting villager’s health.

“A boy got a skin infection after he uses the stream that was polluted with coal.”

Saw Chit Hlaing from Ka Taw Ni village added details to the pollution claims and said.

“Recently fish have died. In the future, if the KNU continue to allow it [the coal mining] and if it impacts on our health it will be difficult for the village leaders to control the villagers – the impact on health on us we cannot accept the coal mining – we fear for our future.”

The discontent of the local people on the company and KNU leader are high. The villagers threaten that if the KNU could not resolve the problem the problem can escalate to violent.

Saw Toe Kay from Ka Taw Ni village said.

“When the company came for coal mining they didn’t come to see the villagers and village leaders [to discuss], they just came and started their mining. Can the KNU leaders reconsider their permission? If they don’t reconsider their permission we will not stand for it. If the KNU leaders cannot resolve the issue the villagers will find their own way to deal with it.”

In early February, villagers from Ka Taw Ni and The Blu Pa Doh urged the company to stop the coalmining, but the company refused to stop. A KNU leader meet with the villagers, but failed to resolve the issue, instead, villagers say it created more problems.

After the villagers protested against the mining, the company asked the Burma Army based at Htoo Ler to act as its security for its mine site.

A Ka Taw Ni villager, Naw Pa Wah, told Karen News.

“An incident occurred when a Burma Army soldier fired into the air after a group of villager tried to intrude onto the mine site. Another incident happened when Burma Army soldiers tried to confiscate photographs taken of the mine site by a local woman activist.”

At the time of writing the conflict remains unresolved. KNU leaders have agreed to report the issue to their District leaders.

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