Activists, Locals Reject Letpadaung Inquiry

A monk receives treatment at Mandalay General Hospital following a crackdown on anti-mine protests on Nov. 29. (Photo: JPaing / The Irrawaddy)

RANGOON—Activists and the victims of a brutal crackdown on a protest against a Chinese-backed copper mine have rejected the results of the newly-released parliamentary inquiry into the incident, as it failed to hold any officials responsible for the violence.

The protestors vowed to continue their campaign against the mine in northwestern Burma, despite the fact that the inquiry said that the project can continue.

In a Nov. 29 raid police fired incendiary devices into a protesters camp outside the Letpadaung mine in Sagaing Division, which caused severe burns among about 100 monks and villagers. It was the worst case of state-sponsored violence since reforms began under President Thein Sein in 2011.

The parliamentary inquiry chaired by opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi was highly anticipated as the mine has become a national flashpoint for communities, rights activists and environmental groups.

The ten-page report, published in state-run Burmese-language newspaperson Tuesday, said police had used smoke bombs containing phosphorus that could cause burns on persons in the vicinity of the igniting devices.

The commission however, failed to hold any officials accountable for the events. Instead it concludes that Burmese police require crowd-control training and it adds, “We want to suggest that the police should check the material that they will use and what its effects are, before an anti-riot crackdown.” The commission also appears to make reference to the protesters, who included “some people who violated the rule of law.”

Thein Than Oo of the Upper Burma Lawyers Network said in a reaction that the report had failed to properly investigate the Nov. 29 crackdown. “This commission result is not enough and we can’t rely on them,” he said, adding that many commission members were too close to the government to hold an independent inquiry.

“If the protesters violated the law, how about the riot police? They also violated the laws. The government should investigate both sides and mete out the punishments,” said Thein Than Oo. His organization tested the smoke canisters and also found they contained white phosphorus in January.

The commissions’ report acknowledges that the Letpadaung mine has environmental consequences and that farmers were forcibly evicted from their land to make way for the project. It advises the mining company to compensate the farmers, but concludes that the controversial mining activity can continue.

Commission chair Suu Kyi reportedly told reporters in Naypyidaw that she would travel to Letpadaung on Wednesday to discuss the report’s findings with the affected local community.

Zavana, a senior Buddhist monk who was among the crackdown victims, said the report’s findings were unacceptable to local farmers. “I will go and meet local people tomorrow here. Then, we will discuss what to do next. We will continue our protest,” he said.

The monk added that Suu Kyi should “not close her eyes” to the suffering of the local people affected by the project.

Chit Khin, who heads campaign group Save Letpadaung Mountain Committee, said it rejected the commission’s report. “We request a total shutdown of the project. Our committee we will do whatever it takes to help the Letpadaung residents, until the absolute shutdown of the project,” he said.

The Letpadaung Copper Mine project is a joint venture between the Burmese military-owned Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings Ltd (UMEHL) and its Chinese partner, the Wanbao company, which is a subsidiary of state-owned arms manufacturer Norinco.

The company confiscated 7,800 acres (3,156 hectares) of land from farmers in 2010 for the project. Last year, local farmers began a protest against the land-grab and the environmental damage caused by the mine.

The protests were later supported by national human rights and environmental groups and gained popular support across the country, as the project is being viewed as benefiting only Burma’s notorious military and Chinese investors.

President Thein Sein’s spokesman Ye Htut said any investment project causes environmental and social impacts, adding that the commission’s report advises that such impacts are minimized and weighed against the benefits.

“Most agree that this [inquiry report] is an acceptable result,” he said. “If people don’t accept the result, there are rules and regulations for them to protest peacefully… But when they come by force we have take some necessary measures.”

10 Responses to Activists, Locals Reject Letpadaung Inquiry

  1. Whose fault is it? The chairman may be Daw Suu but the person who did the leg work was Kyaw Tint Swe so count your self lucky to have at least the ‘half truth’. I neither have faith in this government and I’m starting to lose faith in the ‘collaborator’ as well. Thanks for nothing.

  2. As for me personally, I would say it is total failure of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi on what she stands for. I don’t know what restraints she ifs facing, how her hands are tied down or any political play. Whatever, it is a total failure.

  3. “But when they come by force we have take some necessary measures.”

    We are going to keep screwing you big time again and again and all over the country. Everywhere.

    Aung San Suu Kyi is on OUR side. So are the the global communities.So if you make any noise , we will kill you using anything and every thing.

    And the KFC lovers/ 4G lovers/ Electricity at all cost Lovers/ Screw the mountains and Rivers and these backward farmers and “ethnics” for big roads/ factories/ Google? Intel, any famous name/ NFL lovers/ New Year Day Drunk Celebrating/ Literary Festival Celebrating/ RASU resurrection Celebrating Burmese rejoice their countryman’s carnage and hell!

    Guess what Ye Htut. The battle has not started yet! You , your evil odious masters and your Latwakwat Thars.

  4. Use of WHITE PHOSPHARUS even in war between different nations is a WAR CRIME.

    Why the international communities including oh-so-so-compassionate journalists like Francis Wade, Rights guys like Robertson and of course all the international government stay silent is defining the the rotten state of the dog-eats-dog world. Your turn will surely be next. Then the rest stay silent and gloat. The end indeed is nigh!

  5. Only ten pages? They are slacking, aren’t they? Hundreds of confusing pages in the offing one would have thought.

    Highly anticipated but hardly surprising. It was an exercise in legitimacy such as ASSK has assisted in her esteemed capacity from the start. Not even a smack on the wrist for the perpetrators of legitimized state violence. And more promised since they have carried out the investigation and come up with a report albeit tardy and admittedly in their favor reinforcing the rights of big business, not least of Oobaing. How dare we touch the military’s own business interests? That is sacrilege. And they wouldn’t hesitate to use the security apparatus every time its birth right to expropriate and exploit is challenged. Watch this space.

    • ” security apparatus”

      Cruelest, most ruthless, most indiscriminate, deranged sadistic thugs- oh called Tatmadaw, Daddy’s Tatmadaw of Loverboys and the pa-lates reinforced by Swan-arr-shin. (Please refer to those attack dogs, The Pigs bred for the purpose in the novel of that old Burmese hand Animal farm, if you think it applies here.)

      Now Aung San Suu Kyi is “out” appearing openly on her own side, proper side rather than pretending to be the “People’s Champion” even though she still fancies the name. Couldn’t fault her. It does sound good. “People’s Champion”. Truly harmonious. Better sounding than “Champion of Screwing the People”

  6. In my opinion, Daw Suu Kyi is now part of the problem and not part of the solution any more. She smells the scent of power in Naypyitaw (the scent of jasmine is so yesterday!) and is hell-bent on becoming the next president of Burma, come hell or high water, Rohingyas or Kachins, Chinese copper mines or pipelines, Chinese dams on the Irrawaddy or naval bases in Arakan State, Chinese gas/oil pipelines running through the Burmese heartland or Chinese “business immigrants” taking over Mandalay, …
    Well, who cares about the 99% if you belong to the corrupt Burmese oligarchy, bribed by the Chinese Yuan, that rules through nepotism, patronage and “guanxi”.
    She probably also feels the need to get some “brownie points” from the ex-generals (her former captors) in order to share the “Burmese peacock throne” with them and that’s why she said “I am very fond of the army”! Shouldn’t she be more fond of the down-trodden farmers who lost their land and other displaced people in Burma? I should ask Bono from U2, because the reasons that she was an icon in the West (democracy, peace, human rights, environmental protection blah blah blah) is surely not quite the role she now plays in Burma.

    • Poacher turned game keeper. That’s what she is. The presidency in 2015 even in theory will remain a pipe dream unless she can shatter the Nargis constitution first. Not bloody likely. What a mirage! The more fool she unless she succeeds in getting a significant part of the army on side when it comes to the crunch. And the more she goes on about being fond of the army and never trying to split it, the more they close ranks and the less chance she has of leading the country.

      Perhaps she is happy just to be in high political office however unimportant and pointless a portfolio she is given by her erstwhile tormentors. Perhaps all she ever wanted was make her name in history in the footsteps of her illustrious father. Tragic if she turns out to be just a self serving brat with dynastic ambitions in the end.

  7. What a shame for a person who has been pretending to be a hero but at the end of the day
    being pushed down into a pond of saliva by greed ,selfishness and euphoria with lust for power.
    Hopefully will not be drowned too soon but only a few straws remain.
    Good luck lady !

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