State authorities question Mon State coal plant protestors

August 6, 2015

Police forces have questioned over 350 Mon State villagers, who took part in protests earlier this year against a proposed coal power plant in Ann Din Village.

On May 5, 2015, around 6000 locals gathered to protest against a proposed 1280 megawatt coal-fired power plant, to be built in Ann Dinn Village, located in Mon State’s Ye Township. The project, managed by Toyo-Thai Corporation, includes a total investment of US$2.8 billion and will span the next 30 years. Alongside a mass rally against the plant, villagers also took part in smaller protests, targeting Toyo-Thai’s land acquisition.

On June 6, U Aung Myint Sein, village administrator for Ann Din village, along with the village’s headman, were called to the police station in Ye Town to cooperate with an investigation into the protests. However, the police officer arrived two hours late to the appointment, by which time U Aung Myint Sein and the village headman had returned home.

Following this, on June 13, 20 residents in Thanbyuzayat Township were called in for questioning by Thanbyuzayat police forces. Reportedly, villagers were told that the Mon State government had written a complaint letter about the protests, and had ordered local police forces to conduct further investigations.

Ten days later, Ye Township police forces investigated another 27 protestors. These included 15 protestors from Ann Din and 12 from Hnit Ta Yote Village. On this occasion, the protestors had taken part in a demonstration of approximately 400 residents, who rallied over concerns about the sale and purchase of land. The protestors were told that they had been accused of breaking articles 427, 447, 451 and 506 of Burma’s Penal Code, which rule against mischief, trespassing and intimidation. Charges were reportedly raised in a letter penned by land buyer Ma Yi Yi Htay and land seller U Thar Tay; copies of the letter were sent directly to the Ye Township Police Office and also to the Home Affairs Office, Central Police Office, Mon State Government Office, and other regional bureaus.

Finally, days later, 346 villagers from Ann Din, Hnit Ta Yote and Thar Garan villages were called to the Ye Town police office, where they were accused of participating in demonstrations against the coal plant. Ye Town police forces took down all the villagers’ names and signatures, and told them that their details would be reported to the Central Police Office. Following this, the villagers were allowed to return home.

HURFOM is concerned that villagers who have protested peacefully against large-scale development have been subjected to questioning. State authorities have failed to respect villagers’ rights to freedom of opinion and expression. Moreover, repeated calls to questioning are disruptive for villagers’ lives and livelihoods. HURFOM calls for full transparency and due process over the power plant project and all investigations regarding it, so that further conflict may be avoided as the project continues.

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