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Daw Tin Hla: Standing up against polluting companies in Myanmar

Daw Tin Hla, 61, lost her livelihood due to the pollution from the Heinda tin mine - one of the largest and oldest tin mines in Myanmar.

myanmar human rights defender

Daw Tin Hla, 61, lives in Myaung Phyo village in southern Myanmar, which has been affected by pollution from a nearby tin mine. Photo : Garry Walsh

Daw Tin Hla lives in Myaung Pyo village in southern Myanmar. Since 2008, pollution from the Heinda tin mine has contaminated the local river causing serious health issues and damaging the quality of the soil which locals rely on for agriculture.

As a result of the pollution, Daw Tin Hla says that the water is not safe to drink, and of the 140 households in the village, only 30 have access to safe drinking water.

She also lost 250 betel nut trees and 12 coconut trees on her land due to flooding caused by the mine, and has not received any compensation.

With the monsoon rains having just arrived again, Daw Tin Hla is worried more flooding could happen in the coming months, bringing more polluted water onto to their lands which would devastate the village.  

Daw Tin Hla has been active in organising the community to stand up against the mining company. They are campaigning for compensation and for the company to put a stop to the pollution.

One success has been the establishment of a formal mining monitoring group which has been given the right to inspect the mine and report directly to the government with the community’s concerns.

This year, the community lost their compensation case. After a four-year battle with the Thai company operating the Heinda mine, Myanmar Pongpipat Company Ltd, which went all the way to the Supreme Court, their legal case was dismissed in February 2018 due to procedural issues.

Daw Tin Hla was very upset and cried during the press conference. “My plantations are my life, my only livelihood,” she said.

She doesn’t trust in the company’s Environmental Impact Assessment, saying that it has been done “in secrecy” without proper consultation with the community. However she says that the regional Minister for Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation does listen to the community’s concerns and negotiate with the company on their behalf.

Following meetings with the Minister and the monitoring group, Daw Tin Hla feels that the company is starting to behave better, pollution has reduced, and the company is paying better wages to its staff.

Daw Tin Hla says that her knowledge has improved from attending training carried out by Trócaire’s partner, Earth Rights International. When meeting the Minister for Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation she was able to highlight errors in the consultation process directly to him.  She says “the government is responsible to protect the community” and need to be accountable.

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