Locals in Mong Kok, eastern Shan State, organized a prayer service and protest on Tuesday against a coal mining project in the region.
The prayer service was held at Hsai Mong pagoda. Attendees asked for a stop to environmental damage caused by natural resource extraction.
“The objective of our prayer service is to be protected from danger and to let the coal remain in its original place,” local Sai Lon told SHAN. “If coal is extracted, our farmland, our forests and our rivers will be damaged.”
According to reports from the Shan Human Rights Foundation, Sahakol Equipment Co. Ltd. of Thailand and Golden Lake Co. Ltd. of Burma have jointly invested 300 million baht (more than US$9.9million) in coal mining in Mong Kok. Sahakol has a 70 percent share in the project, while Golden Lake has the remaining 30 percent.
SHRF stated that the companies plan to extract some 300,000 tons of coal per year from the area, and that representatives from the joint venture have informed locals that they will dig on some 3,200 acres of land near Mong Kok town.
Tractors, bulldozers, and other heavy machinery has already arrived in Mong Kok, causing concern among locals that the project is moving forward despite their objections.
“If they extract coal, the environment will be damaged. Local people depend on the environment—it will be difficult to work in agriculture. As a result, they will have to move elsewhere. Who is going to take responsibility for this?” SHRF spokesperson Sai Hor Hseng told SHAN.
Sai Hor Hseng is also worried about the health consequences accompanying the project, as coal pollutes the air and water in the Mong Kok area.
“We have to consider the advantages and disadvantages of coal extraction, but our local people lack knowledge about this,” he said, adding that the project should therefore be halted.
Locals sent a petition letter objecting to the coal mining two years ago. Residents across the border in Thailand have also protested the project, citing environmental concerns.