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Nine local villagers were injured in a confrontation with police at the Latpadaung Copper Mining Project site in Salingyi, Sagaing Division, on Tuesday.
Buddhist monk Sandathiri told DVB that the villagers had formed a protest line to try to stop bulldozers belonging to contractor Myanmar Wanbao from entering disputed farmland that has been confiscated from local farmers for use in the project.
He said a standoff ensued that quickly escalated into an exchange of slingshot fire between both sides.
“In the morning, when only a few police were on stand-by, some villagers turned up and began firing rocks at the bulldozer operators,” he said. “Then at around 1pm, police reinforcements arrived and returned slingshot fire at the farmers. About nine locals were injured.
“The villagers and police continued to pelt each other with rocks fired from slings,” he said. “Finally, the bulldozers were ordered to retreat from the area at about 4:30pm.”
The monk said that around 100 police and 70 villagers were involved in the confrontation.
No details were available about whether police or bulldozer operators were injured.
The injured Salingyi villagers were treated at a local clinic. Doctors treated wounds to faces, arms and legs which were consisted with injuries sustained from projectiles.
Zaw Myo Nyunt, a government administrator from nearby Yinmabin, said he had not been informed about any slingshot exchanges, only that the two sides “were yelling at one another”.
Tuesday’s was the first violent confrontation at the copper mine site since a deadly incident on 22 December when a local woman, Khin Win, was shot dead by security forces.
Tuesday’s altercation coincided with the release of a report by Amnesty International, which alleged the two international mining companies involved in the copper mine – Canadian firm Ivanhoe and Chinese state-backed Wanbao – each colluded in human rights abuses at the site with Burmese military authorities as far back as the 1990s.
Those allegations were rejected by both firms. In a press release issued the same day, Myanmar Wanbao said they found the Amnesty report “to be groundless”, relying on hearsay and conjecture rather than hard facts.
“Wanbao Mining Ltd vehemently denies sensationalist claims of collusion with authorities to use force against protestors and villagers,” the firm said. “Wanbao supports peaceful dialogue as the best way to achieve social peace and sustainable development.”