Some 4,000 people including politicians, civil servants, youths and Buddhist monks gathered together this morning in the southern Shan State town of Mong Kung to call for a halt to a controversial coal mining project in the area.
Speaking to Shan Herald, Sao Ekka Sina, a monk who was one of the demonstration organizers, said, “We held a protest today because we want to protect our environment. The local people here mostly rely on rice farming, and we are afraid that the mine will damage our rice fields. What’s more, there are dangers from explosions during the mining.”
The coal mine site is situated in an area called Wan Loishio, which is in Wan Yard village tract, southern Mong Kung Township.
Sao Ekka Sina said that the protesters marched through the town and called upon local spirits to protect them and their environment.
“We curse whoever operates this mine,” he said. “Whoever digs this coal should be struck down with tragedy; and whoever destroys our forest should be struck with poverty.”
The mining project is contracted to the Hein Myittar Company, which was originally granted permission in 2014 by the central government in Naypyidaw to conduct surveys at the site. However, due to complaints by local people it was initially suspended. Nonetheless, at the beginning of this year, operations began once again.
According to locals in Mong Kung, the coalmine is located on a thousand acres of land, beginning just a mile and a half from the edge of town, which means it will hugely impact both people’s health and the environment.
“The coal mining project is located along a stream, so all the local farmers’ rice fields will be affected,” said Sao Ekka Sina.
Asked about the Wan Loishio mining project, Sai Seng Murng, a Lower House MP from the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD), echoed the local protesters’ view and said that he opposed this mining operation.
“This mine will destroy the environment. I disagree with it,” he said. “I am a representative of the people, and I stand with them on this issue.”
Sai Seng Murng said that he had a meeting with local people on February 25 when they asked him to help.
“As an MP, I have a responsibility to help our people,” he said. “I submitted a letter to the Lower House of Parliament on February 26, and I will wait until the next parliamentary session to hear how the minister responds.”
He said that the next session of parliament is scheduled to be held sometime at the end of April.
By Shan Herald Agency for News (SHAN)