MNHRC releases report on Letpadaungtaung incident

The cause of death and injuries in Letpadaungtaung copper mine project is due to the police force failed to abide by the rules for using the riot gear, according to Myanmar National Human Rights Commission (MNHRC)’s report released on January 14. 

The clash occurred at the project site on 22 December as the police and workers from the Myanmar Wanbao Mining Copper Co (MWMCL) tried to erect a fence on land that the villagers claimed as theirs. Khin Win from Moegyopyin village was shot dead by the police.

The MNHRC formed a commission to investigate the incidents concerning the death of Khin Win and injuries suffered by the villagers and security officials which occurred at the Letpadaungtaung Copper Mine Project. From December 30, 2014 to January 2, 2015, the commission  went to Monyawa and Salingyi Township to make an investigation into the incidents and met with the Sagaing region chief minister, the region security and border affairs minister, police members, the region medical superintendent, the township forensic doctor, the general manager from the Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings Limited (UMEHL) and local people, the report says. But the MNHRC failed to disclose whether or not the commission meets with responsible persons from the Myanmar Wanbao Mining Copper Co (MWMCL). 

The clashes occurred as the local people were confronted by a line of police. Many from both sides got injured due to the police squad’s lack of management. The police could not use the water cannon and tear gas to disperse the crowd in accord with the riot control techniques. 

Article 3 of the Universal Deceleration of Human Rights says, “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.” With regard to the death of Daw Khin Win, it needs to decide the truthfulness and validity of the testimony of witnesses from both sides in accord with the laws.

The case filed at the Salingyi Township Police Station over the death of Daw Khin Win should be solved in conformity with the laws. Stiff actions should be taken against those responsible and police members who failed to follow the rules. It needs to review the security measures so as to avoid the future clashes.

Salingyi Township General Administration Department imposed a curfew under section 144 of the penal code which took effect till December 31, 2014 in the project area. According to the decision of the 32nd working coordination meeting of the Letpadaungtaung report implementation committee, Sagaing Region Police Office adopted a seven-step security measure for fencing on December 20, 2014. 

The security force was unable to follow the step-3 (to disperse the crowd with water cannon) as the crowd scattered during the clash. And there was only fire engine at the time.  The police could not use tear bombs to disperse the crowd as they were not fully equipped with tear gas bombs. 

In some cases, the police did not use riot gear step by step to disperse the crowd. The police squad could not manage to have riot gear described in the security plan and disperse the crowd step by step. It is also found that they used different riot gear at the same time. 

According to the local people, Daw Khin Win was standing at a time when she was shot dead. Some said the standing police shot her dead. But some said she was shot dead by another force. The security forces also said they had to fire a warning shot into the air as villagers attacked them with sticks, knifes, sickles and slingshots, the report says.