Thousands of people are protesting in front of the Government Palace in the central square of Ulan Bator, following reports that $12.9 billion worth of coal, which was supposed to be exported from Mongolia to China, was stolen. Protesters blame corrupt officials for missing coal.
The news.mn portal states that the rallies continue on their third day and that the mood of the protesters has become “more aggressive”. According to him, about 90% of the citizens gathered in the square are students. Gogo.mn writes that some protesters took off their clothes at -30 degrees Celsius to protest rising commodity prices.
According to 24tsag agency, during an attempt to raid the Government Palace, protesters broke the metal door. After that, they entered the palace. Some of the protesters said, “The name that stole the coal!” was carrying banners. They also called for a general strike.
During the raid of the palace, 6 people, including 4 security guards, were injured. The road to the state residence of the head of government was blocked.
According to the Eagle TV channel, the republic’s Ministry of Justice has decided to forcibly disperse the show. Mongolian authorities plan to use force if those gathered in the square do not disperse within the next few hours.
Why did the rallies begin?
Mass protests began after the information emerged that the amount of coal exported from Mongolia was different from the amount received by the Chinese side. According to some media reports, the amount of damage is estimated at 44 trillion tugriks ($ 12.9 billion). According to Kommersant, this is the total cost of seven to eight years of coal exports from Mongolia. Some sources mention 60 trillion tugriks ($17.6 billion).
Total coal exports from Mongolia in the first 9 months of the year amounted to $4.5 billion, and Mongolia’s overall GDP in 2021 was $15.1 billion.
The CentralAsia portal previously reported that officials involved in the theft of coal were executed in China.
“The Chinese side sent the names of Mongolian politicians involved in this case to Prime Minister Luvsannamsrein Oyuun-Erdene,” the portal said.
Now the protesters are demanding “to expose the corruption of the authorities and give the names of the thieves”.
According to the Shuud agency, 15 officials are currently under investigation and suspected of involvement in corruption crimes. An audit is carried out regarding the management of various departments, as well as Erdenes Tavşantolgoy JSC, Taban Tolgoy Railway LLC.
Mongolia’s Ministry of Justice said the government had approached Beijing through diplomatic channels to be involved in the coal investigation.
On the morning of 5 December, Dashzegviin Amarbayasgalan, Mongolian government affairs manager, and Chimediin Khurelbaatar, Mongolian Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Economy and Development, held a joint press conference, announcing that the Mongolian authorities have launched an investigation into criminal theft cases. Coal at JSC Erdenes Tavşantolgoy.
“A total of 10 criminal cases involving coal are being investigated,” said Chimediin Khurelbaatar. According to him, criminal cases are related to contracts for the supply of coal, including the railway.
Meanwhile, the US Embassy in Ulan Bator also warned. The diplomatic mission warned of a possible increase in crowds and urged security officials to stay on top of local news and advised American citizens to avoid demonstrations and crowds.
The Russian Embassy in Mongolia said that nothing threatened the Russians at the moment against the backdrop of the protests in Ulan Bator. “As for the citizens of Russia, there are currently no such signs that they are attending rallies or that someone has been injured. Everything is calm about this,” the embassy said.
The protests prompted Mongolia’s parliament to hold an extraordinary meeting where lawmakers and the government discussed plans to impose a state of emergency in the country, News.mn reported.
Emma Matthew is a political analyst for “Social Bites”. With a keen understanding of the inner workings of government and a passion for politics, she provides insightful and informative coverage of the latest political developments.