Socialist Party
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7 September 2006

Bangladesh: 20,000 protesters march against British mining company

Five killed, 50 injured by security forces

THOUSANDS OF angry protesters torched buildings linked to a British coal mining firm in northern Bangladesh, last Monday morning. This follows the fatal shooting of at least five people protesting against an open-pit mine in the region.

Khalid Bhatti, CWI, Pakistan

The demonstrators set fire to the house of an official employed by the London-based 'Asia Energy PLC', which is developing a coal deposit north of the capital and plans to invest $1.4 billion in the project. The angry crowds also set fire to four other buildings in the town of Phulbari, 350 kilometres north of Dhaka.

The people of this area have been protesting against the open-pit mine project because nearly 100,000 people will be displaced and many local communities will wiped out as the result of this project. The whole environment in this area will be damaged.

The organiser of the protests, Khurshid Ali Moti, said: "Our protest campaign will continue for an indefinite period until the company packs up and leaves the place for good. We will not allow any thing that will make our villages a complete wasteland. They want to rob us; they want our land for nothing. They have killed our brothers. They will have to leave the area or they face the consequences".

The five deaths sparked widespread anger amongst the local communities. Paramilitary forces, called 'Bangladesh Rifles', opened fire at the demonstrators. 50 people were injured, ten critically, last Saturday.

One protester said: "The government has no respect for us, so we also have no respect for the government and their foreign friends. This is not ordinary struggle, but it's a life and death question for us".