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Aung San Suu Kyi Endorses China-backed Mine in Myanmar

An investigation commission led by Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi recommends that the controversial China-backed copper mine in Monywa should continue its operations, but must improve its environmental safeguards and compensate local residents. This has led activists who have been opposing the mine to protest against Suu Kyi.

The official report [my] released on March 12, 2013 admits that the project does not provide locals with jobs and violates environmental standards and has tried to come up with concrete solutions to solve these issues.

The commission was formed by the government last year to probe the violent dispersal of a protest camp near the mine site. The 10-page report confirmed that riot police used smoke bombs to disperse protesters which included local villagers, activists, and monks who are opposed to the mining operation. The report also advised authorities to be transparent about the contract involving the Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings Limited (UMEHL) and Wan Bao Company.

Report and Aung San Suu Kyi praised

Many netizens seem to be pleased to read the first report of its kind in Myanmar. Nathan Maung wrote [my] a short note about the report:

I've just read the report by the investigation commission on Latpadaung Copper Mine. I can see the effort and quality of the commission led by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. This report is not a report that everyone can accept but it reflects all the initial promises of revealing all things as the truth. (Those who are too emotional and making effort only for blaming do not need to read this.) What the commission reported is that UMEHL and Wan Bao should amend the contract with transparency then the project may be continued.

Zay Htet added[my]:

It's really a detailed report. To make it happen, it's not too difficult if it is done with good will. There are many example (projects) in other countries that are systematically carried out.. I totally accept this (report). That's invaluable experience and the beginning of cooperation, an important effort. I'm pleased.

Htet Linn also asserted[my] that the report is fair enough:

Daw Suu (Daw Aung San Suu Kyi) is unbelievable. It's remarkable that she made it as fair as possible for win-win situation as much as she can even though many criticized this whole thing as a political trap for her.

Protests against Aung San Suu Kyi

But some locals in the project area protested against the report and Wan Bao company by demanding a complete stop in the copper mine project. Meanwhile, Suu Kyi went to Monywa to hold a press conference on March 13, 2013. Some activists protested against the report in Yangon as well. They claimed[my] that “whoever supported the project will be known as criminals in history”.

Copper mine protest

Monywa locals protesting against the copper mining investigation report. Screentshot from Eleven's Media youtube video

Suu Kyi welcomed the protests and even reminded her detractors that everybody can protest against her under the law and even in front of her house in Yangon. Suu Kyi was defended by many netizens especially on Facebook. Here are some of the comments:

Myo Kyaw Htun[my] : Lack of knowledge, short term mindset – it's difficult (to deal) with such politics. Please sympathize with someone who is running here and there and solving every issue and problem regardless of her age. Whenever something happens, if all would be just protesting without doing any work, there will be no productivity but just going back.

Andy AP: I'm just wondering, did they really read the report from beginning to end???

Kyaw Thu Tun[my] : If they can't accept it, protest against government bravely. Why they yell “We don't want Daw Aung San Suu Kyi” while she just did her duties courageously as a member of parliament when government appointed her without any bias to government or Wan Bao, she is neither supporting their job nor being responsible for what they did.

Lin Thurein[my] : Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is solving all the mess done by military junta including current president. [...] As nobody was daring enough to be involved in such sensitive situation, they transferred that mess to her. And she bravely accepted her duty as a public leader. How can they claim the results (of the report) are not fair just because they don't want it?

May Thingyan Hein[my]: Daw Aung San Suu Kyi should not be the target of protests. They should read the investigation report carefully. She suggested specific reforms that the Ministry of Mining, UMEHL and Wan Bao Company have to follow. [...] The public should demand them (UMEHL, Ministry and Wan Bao) to follow all those suggestions clearly.

Mommy Htar[my] : It's very clear. The commission cleverly pointed out the downside of the project and asked the proponents to amend the contract including compensation (to locals) with transparency and to redo the processing of assessment on how the farmers and ecosystem are affected by the mining. For example, they reported the low compensation received by farmers under the current contract. The opinion of the commission cannot be “do or don't”. They can only “report” the situation.

Both Wan Bao company and UMEHL announced their intention of complying with the recommendations given by the commission. Meanwhile, the government formed a committee to ensure that reforms are first implemented before the mine project is allowed to proceed.

  • tocharian

    Suu Kyi smells the scent of power in Naypyitaw (the scent of jasmine is sooo yesterday!) and she is hell-bent on becoming the next president of Burma, come hell or high water, Rohingyas or Kachins, Chinese copper mines or jade mines, Chinese dams on the Irrawaddy or naval bases in Arakan State, Chinese gas/oil pipelines running through the Burmese heartland or Chinese “business immigrants” taking over Mandalay, … 
Well, who cares about the 99% if you belong to the corrupt Burmese oligarchy, bribed by the Chinese Yuan, that rules through nepotism, patronage and “guanxi”. 
She probably feels the need to get some “brownie points” from the ex-generals (her former captors) and their Chinese paymasters in order to share the “Burmese peacock throne” with them and that’s why she said “I am very fond of the army” recently. Shouldn’t she be more fond of the down-trodden farmers who lost their land and other displaced people in Burma? I should ask Bono from U2 (and Fergie from black-eyed peas) because the reasons that she was an icon in the West (democracy, peace, human rights, environmental protection blah blah blah) is surely not quite the role she now plays in Burma.

    • http://twitter.com/mydaydream89 Chan

      Have you read the report from top to toe? Seems like you have no clue what the report mentioned about.

      • tocharian

        “From top to toe” LOL
        OK I read it of course,

        You didn’t even say phosphorous bombs (those were definitely not “smoke bombs”!)
        One more thing:
        This copper mine used to belong to Ivanhoe a Canadian company, but thye were forced to sell it at a ridiculously low price to the Chinese, because of Suu Kyi’s insistence on Western sanctions. She never asked China or even Singapore to “punish” the old junta, (what hypocrisy!). tayZa brokered the deal and was handsomely bribed by the Chinese. Of course Than Shwe and Shitlone got their share too.

        Why don’t you talk about those things, if you believe in freedom of speech and “freedom from fear”?

        • http://www.facebook.com/heintun Thant Hein Tun

          To tocharian. It seems like you know a lot of insider news that we don’t know. I suspect that you are amongst the bunch of idiots who want to blackmail Aung San Su Kyi. You dare to say that you are not from USDP?

          • tocharian

            Tayza got at least $50 million for the copper mine deal. This is public knowledge. See: http://www2.irrawaddy.org/article.php?art_id=23270&page=2
            Many of the USDP and Tatmadaw MP’s are still heavily bribed and influenced by the Chinese political and business interests. There are more Chinese than Rohingya’s in “Mian-Dian” Burma is becoming a Chinese Vassal State but Suu Kyi doesn’t care!

          • http://twitter.com/mydaydream89 Chan

            They clearly stated what kind of bombs those were and how it can caused burning etc. in the report. And what Rohingya got to do with this news? Or are you being racist to Chinese?

            DASSK doesn’t need to be famous in western countries as long as we, Myanmar public, adore and trust her. And remember, commission has nothing to control over the decision of the project. They just report what it is. The decision is that of government. I think the blame should be on government instead of her.

            To my knowledge, Ivan Hoe company left the mine because they couldn’t make the profit out of it. I’m not saying China companies are not cruel but that has gotten nothing to do with DASSK. She’s not in the position to give decision over this matter.

          • tocharian

            Well I did read your article from “top to toe”!
            The header says”Aung San Suu Kyi Endorses Chinese-backed mine in Myanmar”, doesn’t it?
            Than Shwe and his sidekick Tayza made these shady deals with the corrupt Chinese while Suu Kyi was pushing for sanctions from the West. That was the main reason why the Canadian company Ivanhoe was forced to sell and also why Than Shwe the “tayoke pay min” had to sell off the country’s resources to the greedy Chinese.
            By the way, if you really want to know what many Burmese think about these Chinese invaders just go ask the really poor farmers near Monywa or Kyaukphru or all the displaced people living in the outskirts of Mandalay. Why should the Burmese Army and the police attack its own very poor citizens whose ancestral lands are now poisoned just to protect Chinese interests? What do the villagers get out of this? Not even electricity LOL

          • http://twitter.com/mydaydream89 Chan

            FYI, the header is not mine. Editors usually crafted the header. And what I suggested to read is not this article but the 10 page long report itself. I wonder you even interpret all text you read correctly. The immigration system of Myanmar is already broken – be it for rohingya or other illegal immigrants or those sneaked in from China. I wonder why you have not seen a rohingya with illegal immigration card why you have seen many Chinese with those. Anyway, this article got nothing to do with illegal immigrants, just what people on myanmar online community think about the report – investigation report, I’ll repeat.

          • tocharian

            This article has everything to do with the invasive and destructive exploitation of Burmese natural resources in the name of the Great Economic Leapfrog Forward for the glorious Han Chinese!
            Most of the copper (not to mention jade, timber, electricity, etc. etc.) goes to China and they use the copper mainly for military weapons and I am against that. I have the right to explain to you and other readers the broader context of why these mega-projects are detrimental for Burma, environmentally and otherwise. I read the “Suu Kyi report” in Burmese (it was in the myanma alin newspaper) but most readers of this blog site can’t read Burmese, so why don’t you translate and explain better what’s going on behind the scenes, not just “pick and choose” some biased remarks made by “netizens” who can afford computers and are not directly affected like the poor farmers near the copper and jade mines. This forum should also be about “global voices” of the “voiceless and exploited”. It’s not just about “hero-worshipping” certain “upper-class people”, Suu Kyi or otherwise. As I said above she has definitely joined the camp of junta cronies, business tycoons and is now “endorsing” Chinese exploitation and I certainly am allowed to condemn what I don’t agree with. I believe in freedom of speech.
            About immigration: Why don’t you write about Chinese illegal immigrants in Burma for a change?

          • http://twitter.com/mydaydream89 Chan

            You have no authority over me to control which to write and which not. Nobody is paying me to translate this or translate that thus I reserve the right to translate or not to translate anything in the world.

            And remember, global voices is a platform where netizens’ voices are collected and shared. I’m neither a journalist nor reporter working for a traditional media. And you are invalidly stating articles on GV should include the voices of those who are not using Internet which is not in the scope. You also have no valid factual proof to say Daw Aung San Suu Kyi joined junta. Even if she did, this would be country’s fortune which could dump those who want to see the country sunk in the traditional media’s biased headlines. I’m done, here.

          • tocharian

            I think you are over-reacting. This discussion is not really about you (although your last comment does say something about your “attitude”, but I will ignore it). It’s all about the Letpadaung mines and what’s going on in general, in Burma with these Chinese controlled mega-projects.

            By the way, I think GV does believe in free speech and welcomes different viewpoints on a given topic, even if the topic is Suu Kyi!

          • tocharian

            You also asked “are you being racist to Chinese?”
            That’s a loaded rhetorical question (almost an argumentum ad hominem) but I will still try to give you an honest answer:
            In my opinion, the wretched “Rohingyas” (sorry, Bingalas in Burmese) are treated very differently from other illegal immigrants in Burma, such as the hundreds of thousands of Chinese who moved into Burma very recently. The Chinese can afford to “buy” Burmese ID’s (even with the names of dead Burmese!) from corrupt officials. A Burmese ID can be bought at Muse for less than 1000 Yuan, I heard. Is that legal?
            Admiring Suu Kyi blindly is one thing, but having racial double standards is a different matter altogether and I can smell the difference. By the way, China is not the only neighbouring country of Burma. Many “upper-class” Burmese tend to “suck up” to the “rich” Chinese but tend to look down upon the very poor “stateless Bangladeshis”. Why? Is it because of their religion?
            As a matter of principle, I always support the poor, wretched, exploited and voiceless (they are too poor to have facebook or twitter accounts lol) people of this world irrespective of race, ethncity or skin colour!

  • gregk
    • tocharian

      Thanks for providing the link to a document which throws a different light on the situation at these copper mines than the rather biased and politically motivated report of the parliamentary commission chaired by Suu Kyi. It’s good to know that there are still people who care about the “voiceless” and exploited rural population of Burma an unfortunately, Suu Kyi is not one of them anymore!

      • gregk

        I disagree with you that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi does not care. She cares more than you and me. Still she is a much better stateswoman than I would be and I respect her though not always agreeing with her. The Canadians dumped that mine because of embargo pressure. I have seen the mining area. The whole project needs a review and the document I supplied I found by looking for the 10 page report of Daw Su’s commission. I have only found the Burmese version linked on this website. The one I found was much better and I believe it explains why the villagers and monks are upset. This is a problem that really needs more than a ten page report to fix.

        • tocharian

          I am totally opposed to the Chinese invasion of Burma or of any other Third World country. The greedy ethnocentric Peking government is using the 2Y-strategy: Yuan and Y-chromosomes, which they have a surplus of (I blame the surplus Yuan partly on Nixon+Kissinger + Wall Street vampire squids + cheap WalMart customers) combined with the 2C-tactics (coercion an corruption) to convert Burma into a Chinese vassal state, just like Tibet.

          Suu Kyi, in my opinion, is a rather naive but self-centered and ambitious woman, overrated by the Western media for too long, who now is “endorsing” Chinese exploitation of Burma for personal political gain. You might think my views about her are extreme but they are pretty mild compared to this:

          http://www.dictatorwatch.org/articles/suukyimugabe.pd

          • gregk

            So if the copper mine still was partnered by a Canadian company you would not object? Lets look at the copper mine without racism and look at the people affected by it who actually live there. Do we need copper mines? Are they environmentally difficult? I think Yes to both. The method of how this mine was setup is history when people with very dubious methods were in control. That control is changing but to just stop the mine would not be a reasoned solution. Do you have a spare 600 million to buy it back? So to fix this problem the solution is pretty much get the company who runs it to be protective of the environment and the people it effects. ASSK has put forward that as a solution. It is fair if it happens. Those people who used White Phosphurus on peaceful demonstrators need to also be made to account for it and be dealt with. Any big business comes to Myanmar to do business to make money. The chinese are here to do that. They need resources and the west boycotted the country so here they are. The whole process of sanctions just made it easier for the dictators to stay in power longer and make more money for themselves. We are lucky that Thein Sein has a better vision and method than anyone before him.

          • tocharian

            If the ruling upper-class oligarchy in Burma is willing to sell the sovereignty of the country, the beauty of its mountains, rivers and forests (not to mention the tigers and the snakes that the Chinese like to consume) and the livelihood of millions of its poor and voiceless citizens for a paltry 600 million dollars, to the Chinese who are hell-bent on becoming the “hegemon” and using natural resources from poor countries to drive up their economy and their military (copper and uranium!), then so be it, just become Chinese “coolies”, scrape everything that the country has, including gold from the pagodas, and give it away to the Chinese. In 50 years or so Burma together with Arunachal Pradesh will become Nan Zhang (Southern Tibet) and we might then see self-immolations of Buddhist monks just like in Tibet.

            The sanctity of the natural environment and the freedom of the individual human spirit are priceless for me (I don’t need to have a MasterCard to know that LOL)

  • nannasin smith

    the reasons that she was an icon in the West ..

    DS1302

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