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Mining company issues defamation claims against author

Aung Lwin speaks at a protest against Delco. (Photo: Dawei Watch)

A mining company in Tenasserim Division is filing a defamation case against the author of an essay about a fish lamenting the destruction of a local creek.

Although the essay doesn’t mention the name of the company blamed for destroying the creek, Burmese-owned mining company Delco Ltd filed a lawsuit against author Aung Lwin at Yebyu Township Court yesterday, accusing him of defamation under Article 500 of the Penal Code.

Aung Lwin denied the charges when he appeared at the court on Tuesday morning.

“I wasn’t accusing the company of anything,” he said. “The essay was written from the perspective of a fish. It’s just a piece of creative writing and nothing more.”

Since Delco Ltd began operations in the area in 2010, its tin and tungsten mines have been blamed by residents for causing damage to the environment. A letter of complaint signed by residents of 10 villages was sent to the local government earlier this month, but has yet to receive a response.

He said the article, published in the 9 May issue of the Tenasserim Weekly Journal and on the website of Dawei Watch, a local media group, aimed to highlight the pollution in the creek. He added that he felt compelled to write something after noticing a decline in the fish population.

“Mainly I was accused of defaming Delco because of the last paragraph of the essay, where the fish mentions a company that is in cahoots with a group of influential figures and conducting only superficial development work in the area,” he told DVB.

Noting that he was accompanied to the court by around 50 local people, he said he hoped the charges would be dropped and that the community and the company could work together to improve the environmental and social impacts from the mines.

“We all need to work together to have better conditions for our country in the future,” said Aung Lwin.

He also said the case made him wonder about recent reforms in Burma. “I would like to ask, do we no longer have freedom of creativity? Burma is a country said to be going towards democratic reforms and this made me question where the judicial sector stands.”

The court will hear his case on 7 June.

Delco Ltd was approached but unavailable for comment.

Reporting by Ko Htwe and Libby Hogan