Letpadaung Activist Beaten, Detained, Say Villagers

Myanmar, Burma, Letpadaung, activist, student, mine, China, copper mine, arrest

A flier formerly posted in villages around Letpadaung calls for arrest of seven of eight student activists charged for helping villagers to protest against a massive copper-mining project. Thaw Win, pictured middle right, was detained Tuesday. (Photo: Han Win Aung)

An activist campaigning for farmers affected by the Letpadaung copper mining project in Sagaing Division’s Salingyi Township was allegedly beaten and detained without explanation Tuesday.

Fellow activists and villagers said that Thaw Zin, a leader of the Rangoon Student Network, was detained by six plainclothes men at about 10 am. The men stopped Thaw Zin and female villager when they were driving to a field near Taw Kyaung village, but the villager was not detained, they said.

Thaung Htike, another activist helping locals in their long-running campaign against the Chinese-backed mine and land confiscation for the project—told The Irrawaddy that police at nearby Nyaungpingyi police station said Thaw Zin was being sent to Monywa prison.

“We have not had contact with him yet,” Thaung Htike said.

Sandar, a Letpadaung resident, said the men who arrested Thaw Zin were not wearing police uniforms, and also beat him and the female villager, Htay Oo.

“Daw Htay Oo was beaten, including on her face, as she was with Ko Thaw Zin when the six men, not wearing uniforms, detained him,” she said.

Shortly after the arrest, about 100 villagers marched to the Nyaungpingyi police station, calling for the release of the activist, but the authorities declined to explain the arrest. Later, police only confirmed that he had been sent to Monywa prison, she added.

Sandar said both Salingyi and Nyaungpingyi police stations refused to accept a complaint that Htay Oo tried to file over the beating.

In total 10 people are still charged with various sections of the criminal code for protesting against the copper mine project in the area.

The deputy manager of Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings—a military controlled company that is undertaking the mining project with Chinese company Wanbao—sued eight student activists, including Thaw Zin, in April 2013 for their activities supporting demonstrating villagers. Thaung Htike, Han Win Aung, Ko Lat, Aung Soe, Thar Gyi, Ko Thu, Ba Htoo and Thaw Zin, all from Rangoon, were subsequently charged with crimes including trespassing, instigating riots and disturbing officials on duty, according to Thaung Htike.

He said the activists were told by police informally that they were no longer facing charges following an amnesty issued by President Thein Sein on Dec. 31 that dropped many charges relating to protests. Signs posted in Letpadaung villages warning them of imminent arrest had also been taken down, he said.

Last Wednesday, eight villagers were also briefly detained for protesting against fencing being erected for the copper mining project, for which some 7,800 acres of farmland has been confiscated from 26 villages in the Letpadaung mountain range. Work on the project restarted late last year after about a year of suspension due to the widespread opposition in November 2012.

4 Responses to Letpadaung Activist Beaten, Detained, Say Villagers

  1. we all must work together to push the Myanmar Government to expell the Chinese Invaders in stead of our poop people and farmers all over the country

    Let us unite all of us now


  2. Is the Myanmar Police Force a stooge of Wambao and MEHL?
    It looks like they are!
    What is the law that requires arrests and beating of demonstrators?
    I don’t mean the criminal sections they have been using. I mean the real and just law that simply justifies the police action.
    Where were the warrants when beating and arrests were made?
    Why can’t they be open about their actions, if those are lawful?
    I think U Thein Sein Administration has a lot to explain.
    And why does the Hluttaws look on without any questioning?

  3. If he violated the law, arrest is okay. He is entitled to be represented by his chosen lawyer in the court of law. Until he is found guilty by the court, he is considered innocent. So, the police or anyone has no right to beat him or physically harm him. Citizens have the rights to protest against government peacefully. They do not need to get permit from anyone or any office. The current regime law is not our law. Let the regime follow its own law. Since the law was not written by us nor our elected representatives, this law is just a rubbish and dictatorial. Thaw Zin has every right to assist the hampered farmers to get back their lands or to get fair compensations from dictators who confiscated their lands. The regime is the one who committed too much wrongdoings, not Thaw Zin and the farmers.

  4. To let the local police department know about the protest or demonstration is good enough. In a democratic society, permit to protest is absolutely needless. So, just let the local police department about your schedule and just show up and say something you want to ask or to let the responsible people/organizations. Do not care what the dictator’s law says. In Gwa Township in Rakhine State, every attempt to protest for illegal land confiscation has been rejected by local/township and state police department. So, why should you apply for permit? It does not make sense. Thaw Zin has our support(the people’s support) which is more important than the dictators’ law. We the people are the law. What we believe is supposed to the law, not what the dictators say.

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