Lack of Transparency to Blame for Mine Conflict: Suu Kyi

Aung San Suu Kyi speaks to reporters at a press briefing at the Rangoon Division parliament on Dec. 6, 2012. (Photo: Zarni Mann / The Irrawaddy)

Aung San Suu Kyi speaks to reporters at a press briefing at the Rangoon Division parliament on Dec. 6, 2012. (Photo: Zarni Mann / The Irrawaddy)

RANGOON — Speaking as the head of a commission investigating last week’s violent crackdown on protests against the Letpadaung copper mine in Sagaing Division, opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi said on Thursday that the problem stems largely from the lack of transparency surrounding the project.

“Since the mining project is based on a contract between the government and a Chinese company that was not subject to public scrutiny, these problems arose,” Suu Kyi said at a press briefing to explain the progress of the commission’s investigation.

“If we want democracy, we have to ensure that [such projects] consider the long-term benefit of the country and the people, or we will not be able to avoid this kind of problem again in the future,” she said.

Suu Kyi’s remarks come amid continuing anger over the pre-dawn crackdown last Thursday on protests by Buddhist monks and local activists opposed to the mine, which is a joint venture between the military-owned Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings Ltd and Wanbao, a Chinese company with ties to a state-owned weapons manufacturer.

More than 70 people suffered injuries, including severe burns, when police in Sagaing Division moved to shut down a camp set up by the protesters.

Solidarity protests have also taken place in other parts of the country, leading to the arrest of at least eight activists, including prominent dissidents Naw Ohn Hla and Wai Lu. Protests condemning the raid, mainly led by Buddhist monks, continue in many cities in the country.

In Mandalay, more than 200 monks took part in a sit-in protest at Eaindawya Pagoda on Thursday to call for the unconditional release of the detained activists and to urge the authorities to charge whoever was responsible for the raid on the camp in Letpadaung.

Monks have also been marching in the streets of Rangoon and Taunggyi, the largest city in Shan State, to make similar demands.

Speaking to the press on Thursday, Suu Kyi asked why the protests are continuing.

“If I know and understand the desires of the protesters, which are important, it will be easier to help resolve the problem. We all have to work together to build understanding,” she said, adding that the commission will do everything possible to win the release of the detained protesters.

She said that the commission will also consult with experts from outside the government to determine whether incendiary bombs were used against the protesters, and speak with Buddhist religious leaders to discuss the role of monks in the protests.

Besides investigating the crackdown, the commission is also supposed to advise the government on whether it should allow the mining project to go forward.

“We will study if the copper mine is following international standards, and also consider whether it is beneficial for the country and the people. We need to know how it affects local people, too,” she added.

According to information released by the investigation commission, 73 Buddhist monks and six other activists were injured during the crackdown and were admitted to Mandalay General Hospital the day after the raid.

Thirty-seven of the monks have since been moved to Kandaw Nadi, a special hospital for monks, while 17 monks and one activist are receiving treatment in separate surgery wards. Five monks and one other activist who have severe burns on their faces are receiving treatment from specialists.

3 Responses to Lack of Transparency to Blame for Mine Conflict: Suu Kyi

  1. Are you also afraid of the Chinese, Daw Suu Kyi?
    It’s not about transparency here. Everything is so obvious and most people know (although they might not want to talk about it lol) The greedy ethnocentric Chinese have bribed and bullied the military junta and their business cronies (Tayza made the deal betwen the Chinese and Ivanhoe, remember!) so that they can rape and pillage Burma as they please. Copper, gold, jade, rubies, oil, gas, timber, real estate,  girls, … you name it, the Chinese own that in Burma It’s the 2Y-strategy (Yuan and Y-chromosomes) . Burma is becoming a Chinese colony.

  2. I trust Daw Su and under her supervise the committee will be truthfully find the fact and the committee will report about their finding in on going problem Letpadaung copper mine saga.
    Also I don’t expect everyone will be happy and satisfied from the committee finding.
    I agreed with Daw Su, one of problems in  Letpadaung copper mine project is lack of transparency about mining contract.  The Committee needs to find how the contract was processed and awarded to Chinese Company and the military-owned Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings Lt.
    I personally don’t like Military is involving in business but I’m sure Generals like it because they are only beneficiary of that scam.  President U THein Sein Government must avoid collision between nation interest and military personal interest.
    Military should be fully fund from country budget and Military should not compete with civilian in business sector.
    Zero transparency in business dealing between UMEHL and Chinese Companies are causing questionable matter for Burmese peoples for many years but they don’t have chance for to open their mouth in the past.
    If Burmese Government is not going back to ex dictatorship Than Shwe era and then UMEHL should be closed and the Company’s businesses must be given back to country. The military must stay away from involving dealing business. The Military will regain peoples respect in future.
    For completely close down Letpadaung copper mine is impossible because the Company is already spent a lot of money in this project. However, if the Committee found irregularity in contract processing and then Government must be amendment to contract and issue penalty to anyone who involve in that scam.
    Mining industries in Burma need strict regulation for country environment to protect forest, river, farmland and peoples’ health.

  3. Lack of transparency??? Has it ever taken place under this government and the previous regimes? No, set it straight and be clear that this government is nothing new to the corrupted former generals. Even Daw Su knows that the majority of this new government is full of monk-killers, students killers and ethnic abusers, she deal with the government with her reputation of “Democracy icon”.

    Now, she is the judege of the country. As the judge of the country, would you put the people who fired the gas to monks into jail? Can you do that? Can you put someone who is behind the crackdown into jail? It is a test of your work as a judge.

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