Mutilated body found near China-Myanmar copper venture

The man's remains were discovered in a village raided by junta forces.
By RFA Burmese
2022.06.28
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Mutilated body found near China-Myanmar copper venture Smoke rising from Phaungkata village, near the Chinese-run copper project in Salingyi township, Sagaing region, June 21, 2022.
Citizen journalist

UPDATED at 3.40 P.M. EDT on 2022-06-28

The body of a man, whose head and arms had been cut off, was found at the weekend near the Chinese-owned Letpadaung copper mine in Myanmar’s northwestern Sagaing region, local residents told RFA on Wednesday.

The victim discovered on Sunday at Phaungkata (North) village in Salingyi townshipwas identified as 30-year-old Sai Myat Soe. Residents said he was not from the village but came from Sa Don Gyi village, also in Salingyi township.

The junta forces guarding the copper project carried out raids on nearby villages, including Moe Gyo Pyin (North), Zee Taw, Sal Tel and Phaungkata (North) villages from June 21 to 24. The man went missing on June 24 when the junta forces set fire to his village, residents told RFA.

A Phaungkata villager told RFA they found the mutilated body at around 10 a.m. on June 26.

“The body was found near the school where he was arrested, locally called Phaungkata North village,” a resident told RFA. “The head, body and arms had been separated and scattered. Everything had to be collected and cremated.”

Locals said Sai Myat Soe may have been killed after he was arrested when the junta forces set fire to villages near Sa Don Gyi.

Calls to the junta spokesman by RFA went unanswered on Tuesday afternoon. 

remains
The remains of Moe Gyo Pyin (North) village, Salingyi township, Sagaing region, May 23, 2022.  CREDIT: Citizen journalist

On April 21, 16 local People's Defense Force (PDF) militias fighting the junta that took power in a coup in February 2021 issued a warning that the Letpadaung copper project, a joint venture with the Chinese Government and operated by Wanbao Mining Ltd., would be attacked because it could provide income for the military junta..

Shortly after the PDFs’ warning, the military junta stepped up security at the mine. They started raiding nearby villages on June 21. Tensions remain high due to guerilla raids by the PDFs.

On Wednesday, Myanmar-Wanbao Co. condemned attacks on the mining project by the anti-junta forces, saying they threatened the lives of the employees inside and the destroyed some buildings.

Wanbao said in a statement that production has been suspended for more than 16 months, while most of the staff have their basic salaries paid. It said Wanbao did not want to be involved in the internal conflict and wanted to ensure the safety of its employees and their right to livelihood.

One local villager living near the mining project, however, called the Sino-Myanmar firm's statement a "blatant lie" because the mining company has worked closely with junta forces.

"They have taken full charge of providing food and accommodation for the military in the area. After setting villages on fire, the military spent the night either in the village or back in the Wanbao compound. The soldiers were able to commit the atrocities because they were getting support from the company," the villager told RFA.

The area around the copper mine "is a very strategic area for our revolution and therefore we cannot let them have a strong military presence here," said Sit Naing, a spokesman from Salingyi PDF.

"They themselves (the company) are supporting the military," he added. "The military has unnecessarily set up artillery and heavy weapons in the Wanbao compound."

The military regime spokesman earlier responded to RFA’s inquiries, saying the junta had to protect the copper mine because it is a foreign investment.

More than 20,000 residents from 25 villages near the mine have been forced to flee due to attacks on nearby villages and fighting between junta forces and PDFs.

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