News / Asia

Burma Authorities Accused of Fraud, Coercion at China-Backed Mine

Aung Thein, a founding member of Burma Lawyers Network, talks during a press conference on the investigation about the Nov. 29 crackdown at Letpadaung copper mine in central Burma, Yangon, February 14, 2013.Aung Thein, a founding member of Burma Lawyers Network, talks during a press conference on the investigation about the Nov. 29 crackdown at Letpadaung copper mine in central Burma, Yangon, February 14, 2013.
x
Aung Thein, a founding member of Burma Lawyers Network, talks during a press conference on the investigation about the Nov. 29 crackdown at Letpadaung copper mine in central Burma, Yangon, February 14, 2013.
Aung Thein, a founding member of Burma Lawyers Network, talks during a press conference on the investigation about the Nov. 29 crackdown at Letpadaung copper mine in central Burma, Yangon, February 14, 2013.
Daniel Schearf
A group of lawyers and activists say Burmese authorities used fraud and coercion to take land from villagers for a China-backed copper mine.  The lawyers say police then 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.  

The Burma Lawyers Network and the U.S.-based rights group Justice Trust say authorities forced villagers to give up rights to their farmland for the extension of the Letpadaung copper mine.

A joint investigative report released by the groups Thursday, says local officials intimidated villagers to sign contracts they had never read.  

The report says officials threatened those opposed to selling their land and replaced independent village heads with supporters of the mine.

Villagers interviewed for the report say officials lied to them about plans for the land, falsely claiming it would be returned to them in three years as useable farmland.

In November, when hundreds of villagers protested a $1 billion expansion of the mine, police were sent in to break up the demonstration.

Roger Normand, director of the legal rights group Justice Trust, says more than 150 protesters, many of them Buddhist monks, were severely injured.  Some suffered second and third-degree burns.  He says their investigation included laboratory tests that prove police fired on demonstrators with military-issued white phosphorous smoke grenades.

"It's used by militaries for smoke screen and for illumination.  But, it's a chemical," said Normand. "And, so it essentially has a dual use purpose which would be against military personnel, against soldiers.  And, for that it's illegal.  It's not lawful for militaries to use this weapon directly against combatants."

Burma authorities apologized for the botched raid, but denied the use of white phosphorous.

The lawyers report says police use of incendiary military munitions against peaceful protesters raises questions about who gave the orders.

The copper mine is Burma's largest and is run by a Chinese military-linked company in cooperation with the largest Burmese military-owned company, Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings Company Limited (UMEHL).

The deal was made during the previous military government and was criticized for a lack of transparency.

Normand says an investigation of the copper mine and crackdown needs to go higher than local police and officials.

"So, obviously questions have to be raised with the executives of these companies, which in Burma is active senior military and recently retired senior military and also the government," Normand said. "Because, of course, the government is ultimately responsible, from the president to the minister of home affairs, for the actions of police."

In December, President Thein Sein appointed opposition democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi as head of a committee to investigate the copper mine.

She met with the injured and others opposed to mine, as well as representatives of the Chinese investor, Wanbao.

Aung San Suu Kyi surprised many when she declared support for the rights of villagers, but also Burma's need to honor its obligations.

Nonetheless, Normand says Aung San Suu Kyi's appointment is a good sign because she is viewed as having a great deal of public integrity.

"On the other hand, the committee has to have the mandate and the power to be able to investigate," Normand said. "And, it's not clear whether the committee that she's been put in charge of has the mandate to look into this police action or has any kind of subpoena powers of investigation."

So far, the committee has missed two deadlines for releasing the official report - the last was January 31.  It is not clear when the results will be made public.

You May Like

Photogallery US Nurse ‘Cured of Ebola,’ NIH Says

Nina Pham, Texas nurse who treated first Ebola patient in US, received no experimental drugs; WHO expects vaccine surge in 2015 More

Video Islamic State Militants Encroach on Baghdad

Iraqi capital not under ‘imminent threat,’ US military says, amid worries about foothold More

Video Hong Kong Protesters Focus on Holding Volatile Mong Kok

Activists say holding Mong Kok is key to their movement's success, despite confrontations with angry residents, anti-protest groups and police More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid