A 9-year-old child was killed and five villagers were wounded when Burmese troops protecting a Chinese-owned mine fired on civilians in Sarlingyi Township in the northwest part of the country.
Lieutenant Sit Naing of the Sarlingyi Public Defense Force told VOA Burmese that trucks from the Chinese company Wanbao Mining Ltd. were transporting copper ore in a truck convoy when security troops began firing shots indiscriminately on Monday.
The official press office for the military junta has not released information about the attack. VOA Burmese contacted Wanbao Mining several times for comment but received no response. The Chinese Embassy in Yangon did not respond to requests for comment from VOA Burmese.
Kyaw Thiha, 9, a resident of Pay Kone village, was killed on the spot, and three women and two men were wounded, according to The Irrawaddy, a news site run by Myanmar expatriates in Thailand.
“Kyaw Thiha’s father was also injured, but his condition is not critical. My two relatives who were seeking refuge in the house were injured. All those injured are being treated in hospital,” Ko Lwan Thu, head of the Yinmabin-Sarlingyi multivillage strike steering committee, told The Irrawaddy.
Even before the attack, tensions were running high between local armed groups and Wanbao mine security forces in Sarlingyi Township. Wanbao Mining is a subsidiary of the Chinese state-owned defense firm China North Industries Corp. In July 2021, the U.S. sanctioned Wanbao Mining and two of its subsidiaries for supporting Myanmar’s military regime that overthrew the civilian government in February 2021.
Wanbao had expanded the fencing around its compound and had deployed fully equipped security personnel to guard copper ore transfers to Monywa, in Sagaing Region.
Residents of villages near the mine told VOA Burmese that Wanbao was confiscating land and fencing it. Some 30 households have refused compensation and remain living on the fenced-in land. The residents also said that around 1,000 troops, armed with the military council's heavy artillery, had been deployed to protect Wanbao’s copper mine. The council is the junta’s local presence.
Tin Than Win, spokesman for the Sagaing Region Military Council who is also the regional minister of natural resources for the junta, told VOA Burmese on Monday that Wanbao is not allowed to expand its territory.
Since the Monday attack, armed local resistance groups near Sarlingyi Township have told VOA Burmese they will retaliate against Wanbao, which operates in partnership with the military’s Myanmar Economic Holding Ltd.
A local resident of Sarlingyi Township told VOA Burmese that Wanbao was transporting about 20 truckloads of ore a day, and that its security guards were firing shots at villages along the highway.
Wanbao’s copper ore sales “are bankrolling the military’s campaign of terror,” according to the Australian rights group Publish What You Pay, which called the Wanbao copper mines “a jackpot” for the military junta.
In May 2022, more than 500 groups in Myanmar sent a letter to Chinese President Xi Jinping warning that China’s support for the military regime via the copper mines would fuel anti-Chinese sentiment. At the time, Wanbao said it financially supported health, education and environmental conservation projects in the region.