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Mongolian Neo-Nazis rebrand as environmentalists to harass foreign business

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Michael Bastasch Energy Editor

Mongolian neo-Nazis have latched on to environmentalism as a way new way to fight the influence of foreigners in the country.

The group Tsagaan Khass, or the White Swastika, is now one of several neo-Nazi groups linking the country’s vast mineral resources to Mongolian nationalism, going so far as to launch raids on mining projects of foreign-owned companies to demand things like paperwork and soil samples.

“We used to talk about fighting with foreigners, but some time ago we realised that is not efficient, so our purpose changed from fighting foreigners in the streets to fighting the mining companies,” Tsagaan Khass leader, Ariunbold Altankhuum told Reuters.

According to the Mongolian national police, the neo-Nazi movement began about 15 years ago when young people grew frustrated over the growing use of foreign languages and signs and began threatening business owners.

“There are complaints that some foreign-invested companies hire Mongolian employees and cheat them, use violence, overwork them, or refuse to pay money owed to them. Afterwards, some of these Mongolians call the nationalist groups,” said national police Colonel Tumenjargal Sainjargal. “There have been a few incidents with nationalists coming to companies for violent reasons to resolve the conflicts in their own way.”

Tsagaan Khass now says it wants to stop pollution from mining projects which dig for copper, gold, coal, and iron, using cheap labor from China and Southeast Asia, reports.

The wire service notes “a lot of the pollution is caused by local, illegal miners working individually.”

“Today our main goal is to save nature. We are doing things to protect the environment,” Altankhuum added. “The development of mining is growing and has become an issue.”

However, the rebranding effort seems to be a way to take advantage of a growing issue in the country — resource nationalism. The current Mongolian president won re-election supporting more control over foreign mining operations amid a faltering economy.

Furthermore, Tsagaan Khass’s new green agenda may not be enough to save its reputation as it has been marred by violent actions in the past and reverence to Hitler.

“The reason we chose this way is because what is happening here in Mongolia is like 1939, and Hitler’s movement transformed his country into a powerful country,” Altankhuum said.

“Mongolia’s neo-Nazis have been receiving too much attention from global media, and they’ve obviously been enjoying it,” Tal Liron, a PhD candidate at the University of Chicago, told Reuters. “They do not, however, represent Mongolians as a whole, any more than neo-Nazis in Britain represent the Brits.”

Liron added that Mongolians “are cosmopolitan, savvy and perfectly capable of adapting many foreign ideologies and fashions to their context,” before concluding: “I think that’s the real story here: Mongolians are not and perhaps never were a remote, isolated people; and they’re also quite capable of understanding irony, especially in regards to their contemporary condition.”

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