Mongolians took to the street for the fifth straight day to demonstrate against officials’ “coal theft” to China on Thursday, December 8.
The Mongolian government in October acknowledged that up to 385,000 tonnes of coal from stockpiles on the border with China had been missing between 2013 and 2019. The scandal fueled anger over corruption and inequality, with citizens calling for justice for the embezzled wealth.
As Reuters reported, the public uproar continued even after eight officials were detained over allegations of profiting from illegal coal sales to China. I’m
Bolormaa Bayarmagnai, who joined the rally on December 8, told Reuters, “People who steal public funds should be held accountable just as someone who commits a crime is held responsible. We would like to use that money efficiently for development in our country.”
Local media outlet Ikon.mn said the authorities had opened 10 criminal probes. Those under scrutiny include former directors from state-owned mining company Erdenes Tavan Tolgoi, a state railway executive, a chief customs inspector, and the head of the border protection department. About 15 officials in total are being investigated for corruption.
Thousands began to protest on Sunday, December 4. Some clashed with the police as they attempted to storm the State Palace on the following day. But Reuters noted later gatherings have been non-violent. The days-long demonstration took place while temperatures were somewhat -20°C or colder.
According to the Associated Press, resources-rich Mongolia has one in three people living in poverty. The pandemic has made it more difficult for many Mongolians to make ends meet. Adding to the distress, inflation has reached 15%.