Over 200 Belin township workers staged a protest on May 2, angered at their sudden loss of livelihoods after a rock quarry was shuttered in March.
Last year, the Mon State Hluttaw decided to close down all rock quarries located within the Kelatha Environmental Conservation Area for fear of environmental contamination and destruction of the watershed. A state government order was issued on December 13.
“These rock quarries are not in line with the law or with the rules and regulations. As they are located inside the environmental conservation area they are not being operated with an official license,” said Mon State Hluttaw representative Daw Khin Naing Oo. “The natural condition, history and culture of this area is invaluable so it’s not a place where rock quarries should be allowed.”
She added that a quarter of the Belin township population lives along Kelatha Mountain and gets their water from mountain springs. Over 2,000 residents signed a petition in support of shutting the illegally operated quarries, she said.
But workers who ran the mills at the Taung Zan quarry say they have been left with no way to earn an income.
“Now, the people are out of work. We will starve during the rainy season,” said Ma Thandar Tun, a former worker at the Taung Zun mill.
The Taung Zun quarry, which was run by the Taung Zun Correctional Department, closed operations for good on March 8. Workers say they were given no alternative sources of income when the government announced the closure.
Labor leader Ko Kyaw Zin Htay said, “All the daily-wage workers and low-wage workers working under us are in very difficult situations as they don’t have any jobs.”
Around 200 workers protested in front of the township Hluttaw representatives’ offices in Taung Zun and Kinn villages and also in Belin.
They shouted slogans demanding the reopening of the rock quarry so that poor rural residents could have their jobs back.
Translated and edited by Burma News International