Magazine article New Internationalist

Land Defenders Step Up

Magazine article New Internationalist

Land Defenders Step Up

Article excerpt

Thwe Thwe Win is a Burmese farmer, one of thousands affected by Burma's rapidly expanding economy and proliferation of foreign mining projects. In 2012, authorities summoned residents of her village to the local schoolhouse to discuss a Chinese copper mine under construction nearby. They promised that land acquired for the Letpadaung mine would be compensated at or above its market value, and said that mine trash would not be dumped on local farms.

Four years later, hundreds of villagers have been coerced into leaving their land. An acid plant producing chemicals for the mine looms 50 metres from dozens of family homes. More than 150 monks and villagers have permanent scars after police used white phosphorous to crack down on a peaceful anti-mine protest. During a 2016 research trip, human rights group Front Line Defenders met survivors with chemical-burn scars covering more than 50 per cent of their bodies.

Thwe Thwe now protests against both the mine and excessive force used by the police, who she says protect the mining company, not the community. As a result, she has faced threats, harassment and arrest. Burma's new government occasionally makes international news for releasing prominent human rights defenders from jail in the capital, Rangoon, but the persecution of activists in rural communities rarely makes headlines. …

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