The Myanmar Times
Thursday, 18 December 2014

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The Myanmar Times

Protesting gold miners in custody

Gold miners march in Yedashe township earlier this month. Pyae Thet Phyo / The Myanmar TimesGold miners march in Yedashe township earlier this month. Pyae Thet Phyo / The Myanmar Times

Protesting gold miners were taken under police guard to a monastery and confined there, their leaders say.

The group of miners, from the Moehti Moemi mines, are marching to Nay Pyi Taw because they are unhappy at what they describe as unfair treatment and broken promises from company Myanmar National Prosperity, which won a tender to mine gold in the area in late 2011.

In June, workers from the hundreds of small mines at Moehti Moemi began protesting after Myanmar National Prosperity allegedly reneged on an earlier verbal agreement to split all gold found in the area 50-50.

On reaching Yeni township on November 27, they were escorted by local authorities to Pyin Ma Taw monastery, 24 kilometres (15 miles) away, said labour activist U Htay.

“Taungoo police and the director of the Ministry of Mines negotiated with the protestors before the Yedashe hluttaw representative, and then the miners were sent to a monastery, 15 miles away from Yamethin. Along the way they were guarded by police. About 50 police stood guard around the monastery. The only people allowed out were those who wanted to go home,” he said.

“We had planned to stay at the Yan Gyi Aung monastery in Yamethin. The monastery at Pyin Ma Taw was donated by Myanmar National Prosperity, so we didn’t feel comfortable there,” said Ko Hlaing Myo Aung, a gold miner.

En route to the monastery, the miners were told not to greet or wave to passers-by and were forbidden to sing, he added.

According to an agreement already reached, negotiations will take place between the miners and Myanmar National Prosperity at Yamethin township administration office on December 3.

“Lawyers from our side will also participate in the negotiations. If we don’t get a good result, we will negotiate with the Director General of the ministry, and with the minister if necessary,” said Ko Hlaing Myo Aung.

The miners are also asking Taungoo police to release protesters imprisoned there since November 23 so they can take part in the talks.

Four leaders of the group and two other members were arrested near Myohla in Bago Region, about 30 kilometres south of the capital, on the old Yangon-Mandalay Highway, on November 23. -Translated by Thiri Min Htun

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