Excellent Fortune Development (EFD) Group Company Ltd. is pushing forward with a controversial stone mining project by Mount Bleh Patoi located near Dani Thakyar and Magyi villages,Ye Township, Mon State, despite a lack of consensus among local residents.
According to a former Magyi village administrator, the project poses no harm to local communities and would spur economic and social development.
“We’ve been underdeveloped for years. We’ve never dreamed of a developed society. The company has informed us that this stone mining project on the mountain will do no harm to the villagers. We’ve accepted their proposal because we want development such as roads, electricity, health, and education services. There is no personal profit. We’ve accepted the project only for local development,” said the former administrator.
Some local residents agree with the former Magyi village administrator, arguing that there is only a small proportion of villagers who disagree with the project.
“The company said they will fulfill the request of the villagers. If they really keep their promise we’ve decided to agree with the project. Nearly all of Dani Thakyar villagers have shown their approval. Just 10% of the villagers have opposed the project,” said Nai Taung Sein, a resident of Dani Thakyar.
The proposed project generated controversy after reports that threats and administrative misconduct were used to coerce reluctant villagers into approving the project.
The rift in opinions on the project is between villagers in central Dani Thakyar village and those who reside on the outskirts. Nearly all villagers and monks in central Dani Thakyar have approved the project, however, villagers residing on the outskirts of Dani Thakyar and some Magyi villagers and local monks have decided to oppose the project.
According to venerable Monk US— from Magyi village, the villagers from Dani Thakyar agreed to sell their land for the local project out of respect for Abbot Sanda Tarra, who was born in Dani Thakyar. Abbot Sanda Tarra is a prominent and powerful monk in the area who initially decided to sell the land near the mountain to EFD.
US— also contends that in December 2017, Abbott Sanda Tarra informed the villagers from the outskirts of Dani Thakyar who opposed the project that there may be consequences, including a police investigation due to their refusal to approve the project, and that he would not protect them.
Despite the mounting pressure, local residents like U Shwe Thein, a plantation owner from Dani Thakyar village, continue to oppose the project, saying, “if the company occupies the mountain, we, the villagers from the outskirts of Dani Thakyar village, will be in trouble. If there is no mountain, we will be struck by [high] winds [that would no longer be blocked by the mountain]. The plantations nearby the mountain will be destroyed. Most of the villagers rely on plantation work. So if their plantation has been destroyed, they will be in trouble.”
Venerable Monk U S— added, “we don’t fear any threat. We’ve been continuing our opposition to the project.” According to U S—, some local residents are afraid of the Abbot Sanda Tarra’s brother, a former member of a Mon splinter group who has been threatening villagers over their opposition to the project.
EFD has yet to apply for permission with local authorities to conduct the project. Deputy staff officer of the Khaw Zar Land Records Department (LRD) U Aung Zaw Win stated that the company must apply for permission to use the land with the Ye Township LRD.
“The company informed us that they would call us when they had an agreement with the villagers over the project. But, to date, they haven’t called us yet. They also haven’t applied for permission to use the land. [EFD] has to negotiate with the villagers properly. We have to conduct a land survey even if they already have an agreement. We have to check which kind of plantations are nearby the mountain and what kind of soil the project area has, and then we must to report our findings.” said U Aung Zaw Win.
According to U Aung Zaw Win, permission for EFD’s project will be decided based on the submitted findings