Sub-standard procedures used by companies digging for platinum in Tachilek district, opposite Thailand’s Chiangrai province, has reduced more than 2,000 Akha, Lahu and Shan villagers there into high and dry conditions, according to Chiangmai-based Lahu Women Organization (LWO) today.
The 8 villages, 13 miles north of Tachilek, have already lost nearly 100 acres of their farmland, the forest that had protected them in the past and their water sources, following the invasion of 5 platinum mining companies since 2007.
“I have six children, so I need to wash clothes everyday,” complained a village woman. “Before, I used to wash clothes at home, but since the platinum companies started taking the water, (the tap water) has become dirty and we need to go to the stream for washing. It takes so much time to carry all the clothes and my baby to the stream. Washing has become a big job now.”
Other impacts of the mining include, among others:
- Land confiscation with little or no compensation
- Destruction of roads by heavy vehicles used by the companies
- Loss of their livelihoods made worse when companies brought in hired labor from lower Burma
- Jobless local girls becoming sex workers
Moreover, when the villagers protest, there is no one to listen to them, let alone help. “We got permission from the officials and we have invested a lot of money on this project,” said a manager of Sai Laung Hein, one of the companies working there. “The best way to solve your problems is to move somewhere else!”
And although many Lahus and Akhas serve in the Burma Army-run People’s Militia Forces (PMFs) and Border Guard Forces (BGFs), they are also unable to help.
“We will have to let the government know what is happening here through the media and through the elected representatives,” said Ma Aye Myint, an LWO coordinator. “Because what is happening in the 8 villages will be spreading to neighboring areas soon.”
Already 15 more companies are coming in this year. Tachilek is said to be rich in platinum metal, especially further north in Talerh and Paliao-Kenglarb.
The 143 member Shan State legislature has one elected representative each from Akha and Lahu national races, who also serve as cabinet members in the Shan State Government:
- Shamwe Lasheng, Lahu, Kengtung
- Peter Thaung Sein, Akha, Kengtung
It also has 9 women elected representatives:
- Nang Mya Mya Lwin, Mongyawng
- Nang Ngwe Ngwe, Muse
- Nang Kham Aye, Namtu
- Nang Kham Perng, Mongkeung
- Nang Eskimo, Laikha
- Daw Marie (Lahu), Lashio
- Daw Tin May Tun (Shan-Akha), Kengtung
- Nang Keng Kham, Mongyang
- Daw Aye Cho Sein, Pekhon