Burma’s opposition leader and chairperson of the Lower House’s Committee for the Rule of Law and Tranquility, Aung San Suu Kyi, on Sunday spoke out about the furore surrounding the Latpadaung copper mine project in Sagaing Division.
According to Burmese–language news journal Messenger, Suu Kyi responded to a question about the controversial Monywa-Latpadaung copper mining project by saying: “Before implementing government projects we need a process of transparency. But also, if we unilaterally break off ongoing projects [with foreign firms], we stand to lose international trust.”
Suu Kyi’s comments came after Burma’s Defense Minister Lt-Gen Wai Lwin warned at the 5th session of the Lower House of Parliament on Friday that the influx of foreign direct investment would be deterred if contracts with foreign firms were cancelled and promises broken.
Also at Parliament on Friday, a proposal was submitted by Pale constituency MP Khin San Hlaing calling for an independent state-level commission to probe into the case of the Latpadaung project.
The mining project was initiated in 1980 with joint ventures between former Burmese Ministry of Mining-1 and several investors, including Canadian firm Ivanhoe Mines.
The current contract, inked in 2011, was signed by the military-aligned Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings Ltd. and China’s Wan Bao Company.
But local villagers say that more than 7,800 acres of land from 26 surrounding villages has been confiscated to make way for the mines, and they have held regular protests and “sit-ins” this year on the mountain urging the government to suspend project until it is debated in Parliament.
Environmentalists say Latpadaung is situated in a watershed area near the confluence of two of Burma’s most important rivers, the Irrawaddy and the Chindwin, around 15 miles west of Monywa.
“Contracts have been signed on the Latpadaung copper mining project,” Suu Kyi is quoted as telling assembled reporters on Sunday. “If unilaterally canceled, compensation must be made. If Burma wants to stand up as a commensurate country within the international community, it must keep its promises.”
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