Residents of Salingyi have denounced claims published by state-owned daily newspapers on January 12 that local farmers were thankful when the Myanmar Wanbao Mining Copper Co Ltd, which operates the controversial Letpadaungtaung copper mine project, harvested the crops of local farmers free of charge.
Headlines in the state-run dailies claim farmers in 11 villages thanked the mining company for harvesting their crops. The farmers deny this claim.
In fact, the farmers claim that many acres of crops were damaged in the process of fencing in the copper mine project site on land that was previously seized from them. Thousands of acres have been grabbed for the project so far.
Authorities in the area did not accept the claim that the local farmers wanted to harvest their crops themselves.
“We want to harvest by ourselves just as we grow the crops by ourselves. Even though the company says it offers compensation, the farmers do not accept it. The state-owned newspapers said that the farmers were happy when the company harvested free of charge. This news is not accurate. We want to harvest by ourselves. We are now facing shortages of food for our cows and other animals. Our pastures have been fenced by the company,” farmer Win Win Htay said.
The company fenced Sede village on the pretext of the needs of the mining project. Almost all the seized land remains in the project area.
Regarding the damage of the crops due to the fencing, the General Administration Department of Salingyi Township started to pay cash assistance for the crops to the farmers on January 12, but only few farmers accepted it.
“The cash assistance paid to the farmers varies depending on kinds of crops and per acre yield. The highest market price is offered to the farmers. The concerned authorities harvested the crops of the local farmers and sent them to their houses,” said Minister of Agriculture and Irrigation Saw Myint Oo.
“If others harvest our crops, there may be more damage. The state-owned dailies are writing false stories and hiding the real truth. They are telling lies,” local farmer Kyaw Aung said.
“The local farmers have no reason to thank the company. The company unfairly fenced our farmlands. The company cleared the farmlands with bulldozers, damaging the crops. We want to get back our lands. We value and cherish our lands. The State-owned dailies misled the readers. No one is happy. We need not thank the government. We are not the ones who eat rice and curry supported by the government. The government does not supply power to us. Our efforts to get power have been self-reliant,” said Thwet Thwet Win from Wethmay village.