Residents in southern Shan State say they are being pressured to accept a coal mining project they don’t want near their village.
An abbot at Hai Seng monastery in Hai Seng village, Laikha Township, says five representatives of Hay Hurng company visited the temple on July 6 to convince religious leaders to accept the mine. When they objected, he says, they asked them to reconsider.
The abbot told SHAN they stand firmly against a coal mine near their village because residents “‘will suffer health problems” and it will “damage the environment.”
Villagers told SHAN that company representatives visited Hai Seng several times to sway residents and village leaders to accept mining in the area. The visit to the monastery was the company’s latest attempt to win favours with local leaders in a bid to push the project through.
Khu Daw-Na, the leader of the military-backed Wan Pan People’s Militia Force (PMF), who owns shares in Hay Hurng, reportedly held a meeting with locals at Nawng Yar Seng monastery in the village by the same name on February 15 and outlined his plan to start a mining initiative. The PMF leader owns shares in Hay Hurng.
Laikha Township parliamentarian Sai Kyaw Zayya says the consensus among community members who joined the meeting was against the project. “If the people and the monks are opposed to it, we stand with them,” he says.
Hay Hurng wants to mine 500 acres in Hai Seng village-tract, where the village is located.
SHAN reached out to the mining company for comment, but no-one responded.
Residents of Nam Lin village, also located in Laikha Township, say they have experienced drought since the government allowed Loije Nagar mining company to start extracting coal in 2016. With the water shortages, they are having trouble maintaining their paddy farms. The government gave the mining company a ten-year operating license in the township.
In 2018, over 700 residents gathered to demand that the government stop mining coal in Laikha Township.
The Burma Army, Shan State Restoration Council/Shan State Army (RCSS/SSA), Wan Pan PMF (formerly RCSS Brigade-758) and Pa-O National Organization maintain bases in Laikha Township.