[Marxism] Resentment of Chinese capital spreading in Myanmar
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Thu May 22 07:59:15 MDT 2014
Resentment of China Spreading in Myanmar
By THOMAS FULLERMAY 19, 2014
BANGKOK — A flare-up of resilient hostility toward China among its
neighbors has infected central Myanmar, where a Chinese company
operating a copper mine has local residents seething over what they call
the operator’s arrogance and the project’s seemingly unbridled expansion
Villagers seized two Chinese employees of the mine on Sunday, and while
the company’s demand that they be released was met late Monday, local
residents said they remained embittered about mining’s impact on the
area, including the destruction in April of a Buddhist temple.
“The Chinese don’t know our culture — how would they feel if their
respected buildings were destroyed?” said Thwe Thwe Win, a villager who
has fought the expansion of the mine.
The conflict comes at a time when overlapping territorial claims between
Beijing and its southern neighbors have resulted in rising tensions, and
in the case of Vietnam, violence in which Chinese-owned businesses
appear to have been targeted.
The Letpadaung copper mine, a joint venture between a Chinese
state-owned arms manufacturer and the Myanmar military, has been a flash
point in Myanmar for the past two years as angry villagers have resisted
the mine’s expansion.
On Sunday, the joint venture, Myanmar Wanbao, said three contractors
“were jumped upon by the activists and taken against their will.”
One of the workers, a Burmese citizen, was released Sunday. The other
two, Chinese contractors, were released Monday after a tense standoff,
said Cao Desheng, a spokesman for the company.
“They are in good shape,” Mr. Cao said in an email.
U Han Win Aung, an activist who opposes the mine project, said villagers
abducted the workers when they saw the mine company employees surveying
near their village, Kyauk Phyu Tai.
“The villagers thought the surveying meant their lands would soon be
taken from them,” Mr. Han Win Aung said.
Riot police officers used tear gas and fired warning shots on Sunday
outside the village, he said.
Mr. Cao said by telephone that until Sunday’s abduction, relations with
villagers had seemed to be improving.
“We are very puzzled why this has happened,” Mr. Cao said. “We have been
engaging with the communities. We don’t know why they took this violent
But local residents say tensions remain and complain of what they call
unacceptable behavior by the Chinese company and its employees.
“Chinese workers are strangers,” said U Myint Thein, a resident of the
nearby town of Monywa. “They don’t know our local customs. So we feel
they are arrogant.”
Anti-Chinese riots in Vietnam last week over China’s placement of an oil
rig in disputed South China Sea waters has underscored a rising backlash
against China’s appetite for natural resources and as it becomes
increasingly assertive in the region. The Chinese oil rig was towed
early this month into an area 140 miles off the coast of Vietnam and
claimed by both countries.
In Myanmar, the battle over the Chinese-run copper mine rose to national
prominence two years ago when the Myanmar police used phosphorus smoke
bombs to disperse villagers and Buddhist monks protesting outside the
mine. Outrage at the violence of the crackdown — a number of monks were
badly burned by the phosphorus — prompted a rare apology by the
government of Myanmar’s president, Thein Sein.
Villagers outside the copper mine have objected to the mine’s expansion
plans, and complained of pollution, inadequate compensation and
heavy-handed land seizures. The mine controversy is one of many cases in
Myanmar involving land ownership disputes.
The copper mine has also been cited as a symbol in Myanmar of resentment
toward China, which is accused of plundering timber and other natural
resources from the country.
Wai Moe contributed reporting from Yangon, Myanmar
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