Burma keeps copper project running as government 'afraid of China'

A senior Burmese minister has told residents protesting a PRC-backed copper mine that the government is "afraid of China" and its possible response should the project be annulled.

The Irrawaddy reports that Aung Min, Minister of the President's office, made the remarks during a public meeting in Monywa, Saigaing Division, attended by representatives from 26 villages who are opposed to the copper miner.

Protestors are demanding the total shutdown of the controversial Laptadaung copper mine, which is a joint-venture between Chinese company Wangbao and the army-owned Union of Myanamr Economic Holdings and has entailed extensive land grabs.

Eurasia Review reports that the project has led to the confiscation of around 7,800 acres of farmland in total from the area, while also forcing the relocation of farmers from 66 vilages.

Aung Min said at the meeting with protestors that the Burmese government would need to pay an exorbitant compensation sum of at least several billion dollars to China should the project be annulled.

"If China asks for compensation, even the Myitsone Dam shutdown would cost US $3 billion,” said Aung Min. "But China still hasn’t said a word about it. We are afraid of China."

Aung Min also pointed to the potential impact that China's interference in Burma's domestic affairs could have should they react adversely to the project's cancellation, noting that Deng Xiaoping's refusal of support weakened a Marxist insurgency in Burma during the 1980's.

“If they feel annoyed with the shutdown of their projects and resume their support to the communists, the economy in border areas would backslide. So you’d better think seriously.”