ULAN BATOR – (Reuters) – A Mongolian neo-Nazi group has rebranded itself as an environmentalist organization fighting pollution by foreign-owned mines, seeking legitimacy as it sends Swastika-wearing members to check mining permits.
Tsagaan Khass, or White Swastika, has only 100-plus members but it is one of several groups with names like Dayar Mongol (Whole Mongolia), Gal Undesten (Fire Nation) and Khukh Mongol (Blue Mongolia), expanding a wave of resource nationalism as foreign firms seek to exploit the mineral wealth of the vast country, landlocked between Russia and China.
From an office behind a lingerie store in the Mongolian capital, the shaven-headed, jackbooted Tsagaan Khass storm-troopers launch bizarre raids on mining projects, demanding paperwork or soil samples to be studied for contaminants.
“Before we used to work in a harsh way, like breaking down doors, but now we have changed and we use other approaches, like demonstrations,” the group’s leader, Ariunbold Altankhuum, 40, told Reuters, speaking through a translator.
On a patrol to a quarry in grasslands a dusty two-hour ride from the capital, members wore black SS-style Nazi uniforms complete with lightning flashes and replica Iron Crosses. They questioned a mine worker against the sound of machinery grinding stones about paper work, opting to return in a week when the owner had returned.
“Today our main goal is to save nature. We are doing things to protect the environment,” Altankhuum said. “The development of mining is growing and has become an issue.”
The group, founded in the 1990s, says it wants to halt pollution in the landlocked former Soviet satellite as foreign companies dig for gold, copper, coal and iron ore using cheap labor from neighboring China and nearby Southeast Asia. But a lot of the pollution is caused by local, illegal miners working individually.
“We used to talk about fighting with foreigners, but some time ago we realized that is not efficient, so our purpose changed from fighting foreigners in the streets to fighting the mining companies,” Altankhuum said.
Foreign-invested mining companies contacted by Reuters either were unavailable for comment or did not want to comment.
Mongolians fear foreign workers are taking up scarce jobs in an economy where nearly 30 percent of the population lives below the poverty line, according to the Asia Development Bank.
“Mining is important because it’s 90 percent of our economy,” said political commentator Dambadarjaa Jargalsaikhan. “But the unequal channeling of this revenue, the inequality in this country, that’s the major issue.”
Not helping the Tsagaan Khass environmental credentials among mainstream observers, apart from the uniforms, is Altankhuum’s reverence for Adolf Hitler.
For the rest of this article, click here: http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/07/02/us-mongolia-rightwing-idUSBRE96108N20130702