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

China May Be Biggest Winner From Ukraine Crisis

Missile sales, oil and gas shipments are among many areas that may drive Beijing and Moscow closer together in coming years More

Obama Faces Chaotic World, Limits of Power

Current foreign policy issues bring into focus challenges for US policymakers who are mindful of Americans' waning appetite for overseas military engagements More

SADC Meeting Lesotho Officials to Resolve Stalemate

Official says regional bloc has been engaged with leaders in Lesotho to resolve political disagreement that led to coup attempt More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015i
X
Carol Pearson
August 30, 2014 7:14 PM
A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assault

After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.
Video

Video Growing Business Offers Paint with a Twist of Wine

Two New Orleans area women started a small business seven years ago with one thing in mind: to help their neighbors relieve the stress of coping with a hurricane's aftermath. Today their business, which pairs painting and a little bit of wine, has become one of the fastest growing franchises across the U.S. VOA’s June Soh met the entrepreneurs at their newest franchise location in the Washington suburbs.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials To Begin Next Week

The National Institutes of Health says it is launching early stage trials of a vaccine to prevent the Ebola virus, which has infected or killed thousands of people across West Africa. The World Health Organization says Ebola could infect more than 20,000 people across the region by the time the outbreak is over. The epidemic has health experts and governments scrambling to prevent more people from becoming infected. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Asian Bacteria Threatens Florida Orange Trees

Florida's citrus fruit industry is facing a serious threat from a bacteria carried by the Asian insect called psyllid. The widespread infestation again highlights the danger of transferring non-native species to American soil. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Aging Will Reduce Economic Growth Worldwide in Coming Decades

The world is getting older, fast. And as more people retire each year, fewer working-age people will be there to replace them. Bond rating agency Moody’s says that will lead to a decline in household savings; reducing global investments - which in turn, will lead to slower economic growth around the world. But experts say it’s not too late to mitigate the economic impact of the world’s aging populations. Mil Arcega has more.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.

AppleAndroid