On Thursday 26 August, protesters from anti-mining and climate justice organisations occupied the entrance of the Bangladesh High Commission to commemorate the 15th Phulbari Day since the 2006 Phulbari Massacre.
The Phulbari Solidarity Group and London Mining Network were joined by Extinction Rebellion Youth Solidarity, Global Justice Bloc and Fossil Fuel London in a vigil and protest.
Organisers handed over a memorandum signed by 41 international organisations asking the Bangladesh High Commission to call for the end of coal mining and coal-fired power plants in Bangladesh, as well as the delisting of Global Coal Management (GCM) from the London Stock Exchange.
The Phulbari Massacre was a protest of 80,000 people in an area of Bangladesh in 2006, against the eviction of 130,000 residents to make way for a British-financed coal mine. The protest was met with ‘paramilitary force’ as they opened fire towards the civilians, killing 3 young people, aged 11, 13, and 18, and injuring hundreds of others.
Resistance following the shooting resulted in the Phulbari Verdict, a contract between Government and people in which the Bangladesh Government claimed it would ban further coal mining. Unfortunately, it has not kept its promises, and GCM has continued to operate since.
Sara Cordovez, of Extinction Rebellion Youth Solidarity, said: “We stand with the Phulbari Solidarity Group in marking the 15th anniversary of the Phulbari Day shooting.
“For us at XR Youth Solidarity, Phulbari Day represents the undeniable link between people and planet: our global fossil-fuel addicted economy is killing people, directly and indirectly, and driving us towards the ecological and climate collapse, while leaving communities like Phulbari to mourn for the youth that stood against this fate. We stand united against GCM and emphatically condemn their continued listing in the London Stock Exchange.”
At the protest, the crowd put together a vigil with flowers, candles, and a cellist, alongside a banner reading, ‘Justice for Al Amin, Salekin, Tariqul - your deaths will not be in vain’. After the memorandum was read aloud, a 3 minute silence was held to honour the dead.
XR Youth protesters held a placard-making session at the occupation before organisers from the Phulbari Solidarity Group asked to enter the High Commission for a meeting with the High Commissioner.
The group were denied access to the building or a meeting with the High Commissioner, although her First Officer came down to meet the organisers and take their contact details to attempt to arrange a meeting at a later date.
Rumana Hashem, co-ordinator of Phulbari Solidarity Group and eyewitness to the Phulbari shooting, said: “I am sad that the High Commissioner did not make time for us on a sensitive issue on Phulbari Day. Bangladesh High Commission is fully aware that the London Stock Exchange is hosting a company that is responsible for gross human rights violations and that does not have a valid license for business in Bangladesh.
“But they are not taking action to prevent this crime. I have witnessed GCM's violence in Phulbari. 15 years on, the company continues to grab money by selling deceitful shares on Phulbari’s name. The company does not hold any valid asset to operate in Phulbari and does not have permission for mining anywhere in the world.
“The Bangladesh's state minister stated that the government will take legal action against GCM. That was in 2019. It’s been two years since.
“We have written to LSE's Chief Financial Officer and Chief Executive Officers twice, and submitted evidence showing that GCM is involved in fraudulent business at LSE. It is now the High Commission and Bangladesh Government who should take action."