RCSS/SSA listens to villagers’ opposition to Mong Kung coal mines

Representatives of the Restoration Council of Shan State/Shan State Army (RCSS/SSA) sat for a meeting yesterday with local residents in Mong Kung Township to discuss a controversial coal-mining project in the area, which is located in Loilem district in southern Shan State.

According to Sao Ekka Sina, a Buddhist monk representing villagers who oppose the mine, the RCSS/SSA representatives asked the local people to clarify whether they were against the project and why.

“We spoke with Lt-Col Sai Sarm, Maj Saw Jing and Sai Toon from the RCSS/SSA,” said Sao Ekka Sina. “They wanted to know the background to last month’s protest.”
On April 11, more than 4,000 residents in Mong Kung staged a demonstration against the Pyae Aung Hein and Hein Mitter coal-mining companies, claiming that the mining operations would cause grave environmental destruction and impact the livelihoods of local people.

Sao Ekka Sina, who was one of the demonstration organizers, told Shan Herald that the RCSS/SSA representatives said yesterday that they were not taking sides with either the villagers or the mining firms, but instead felt it was their responsibility to listen to local opinions. They told the village assembly that they would also listen to the mining companies’ perspective.

“We told them [RCSS/SSA] that we strongly disagree with the mining project,” the monk said. “We have had discussions with the company managers and they agreed to cease operations and move out of the area by May 13. We told them that if they continued mining we would resume our protests.”

“The RCSS/SSA has a duty to protect the people,” said Sai Long, an MP from the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD) representing Mong Kung Township, who attended yesterday’s meeting. “However, the RCSS/SSA representatives told the villagers that they can only intervene if their superiors order it.”

The central government in Naypyidaw granted permission to the Pyae Aung Hein and Hein Mitter companies to launch the coal-mining projects in Mong Kung in 2014. Their operations were soon suspended due to local people’s opposition, but earlier this year, they restarted work on the sites.

By Shan Herald Agency for News (SHAN)


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