Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Wanbao security personnel can be armed and allowed to shoot: mine ESIA

Eleven Myanmar -  07 September 2014

An impact assessment on the Letpadaungtaung project says a report should be sent promptly to Myanmar Wanbao Mining Copper’s central office every time security personnel are armed and a firearm is discharged.

This clause, in Chapter 13 of the Environmental Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) on the mine project, which was released in late August, has stirred debate on whether guards working at the mine – in Sagaing region in the north – should be allowed to be armed.

A section in this chapter relating to Community Health, Safety and Security covers “Security and the Use of Force”. It says the company will carry out risk assessments in relation to security issues at each of its project sites.

Each Myanmar Wanbao Mining Copper (MWMC) site will develop a security plan in a bid to prevent or mitigate any threats identified in its risk assessment. The plan will determine how personnel are deployed at project sites, it said. The objective is to ensure that security is deployed in a way that respects and protects human dignity and human rights, avoids creating conflict and addresses security threats in as peaceful a way as possible.
MWMC will therefore seek to ensure that use of force is a last resort and used in a way that minimizes damage and injury, and respects and preserves human life.

The report says the firm will only use armed guards where the risk assessment determines that this is the only way to mitigate identified risks or where it is required by law. It adds that force should only be used for preventive and defensive purposes – in proportion to the nature and extent of the threat.
And security personnel must ensure that medical aid is given to anybody injured in any incident at the earliest possible moment.

According to the report, a community complaints process will be set up to allow the local community to express concerns about security arrangements and the actions of the company’s security personnel; MWMCL will investigate any credible allegations of unlawful or abusive acts by its security personnel, take action to prevent any recurrence, and report unlawful and abusive acts to public authorities when appropriate.

“Myanmar Wanbao uses public or government security services to protect its operations; they must guarantee that existing international guidelines and standards for the use of force are respected,” it states.

“The company will conduct due diligence on security providers to avoid retaining the services of any group or individual that has previously been responsible for violations of human rights or humanitarian law,” it says.

“The company will provide training regarding the use of force (and where applicable, firearms) and appropriate conduct toward workers and the local community and monitor to ensure that security personnel abide by this standard.

“The company will adhere to local laws as well as international standards on law enforcement in securing its operations, particularly those that relate to the use of force.”

News that the government has allowed security personnel for Myanmar Wanbao to be armed has raised questions on whether the company is violating Myanmar sovereignty and out of line with current laws.

“The existing laws of Myanmar do not allow the security guards to keep weapons. The best security system for the company is getting a mutual understanding with locals,” said Vicky Bowman, the former UK ambassador for Myanmar and director of the Myanmar Centre for Responsible Business.
Dong Yunfei, administration manager and spokesperson of Myanmar Wanbao told Eleven on Friday that the Letpadaungtaung project had faced a lot of criticism since it started. Riot police had fired smoke bombs at protesters and some of them and monks had suffered serious burns. At present the project was facing criticism from locals. In the mine report released on Wanbao website in Myanmar language, people didn’t know about security guards having permission to be armed and to shoot. People still haven’t read the report, he said, because it contains of information and it is not related with environmental issues.

Hla Maung Thein, deputy director general of the Ministry of Environmental Preservation and Forestry and chairperson of committee scrutinising the Letpadaungtaung report, said the report was in English and some facts were not included in the English report. He said anyone who wanted to know why the company’s security guards were carrying weapons needed to ask the Ministry of Home Affairs.

In regard to this issue, Eleven Media tried to contact Police Brigadier-General Win Khaung from Myanmar Police Force on Friday. An official replied that he was in the meeting. Eleven Media also contacted the Secretary of Sagaing region government but we were told that he was also in a meeting.

Dr Zaw Oo, an economic adviser to the President, who spoke at a seminar on Myanmar’s economic reforms and future challenges, said signing a new contract for Letpadaungtaung had provided some benefits for Myanmar. However, current controversial issues around the project were lessons that future mining projects must not to be harmful to local people.

Win Myo Thu, from Sein Lan Ami Myay, said: “As a citizen, I think a foreign company should not be allowed to equip with arms. If this is for their security, the government should take responsibility for it. Just arming the company doesn’t end the disputes with local people. It won’t bring about peaceful negotiations. They will get worse. We don’t like it.”

Phoe Phyu from Purple Equity Law Firm said on Friday that even Myanmar citizens were not allowed to carry guns according to the law.
“We think it is a kind of offence to our sovereignty. This is because the project concerns the livelihood of local people. There are also controversial areas such as its environmental impacts. The project is related to the notorious Myanmar Economic Holdings. Since a Chinese company is involved in the project, local people and the world think it may harm the environment. If the company is allowed to be armed, it will harm our sovereignty,” he said.
“If we can’t protect the interest, livelihood and rights of people in our country and allow a Chinese company to be armed for their interests, our sovereignty can be said to be totally lost,” he said.