Mine protest reveals tension over land rights
Unravelling contentious transfers a huge, complex task for Myanmar
BANGKOK - While a stand-off between police and protesters at the Latpadaung copper mine has ended for now, experts say the incident reveals the simmering tension over property rights in Myanmar's changing political landscape.
Riot police fired water cannon and tear gas to break up the three-month protest against the vast copper mining project, a joint venture run by the powerful Myanmar military and a Chinese weapons manufacturer.
The incident, which took place early yesterday, was an extreme example of the tension spawned by the transfer of land from Myanmar farmers who have usually lived on it for generations without any official titles. It is estimated that about one-third of Myanmar's rural population, of around 47 million, are landless labourers.
By contrast, some 730,000ha had been granted to 204 companies by 2011, according to the Department of Agricultural Planning of Myanmar's Ministry of Agriculture & Irrigation.