The Letpadaung Saga and the End of an Era

When Aung San Suu Kyi, Burma’s iconic pro-democracy leader, told villagers affected by the controversial Letpadaung copper mine in Sagaing Division on Wednesday that their struggle against the project was “in vain,” a new era in Burmese politics began.

It is no small irony that this event occurred 25 years to the day after the death of Phone Maw, a student activist who is widely regarded as the first victim of the crackdown on a nascent pro-democracy movement that went on to reshape Burma’s political landscape for the next quarter of a century.

It was during the 1988 struggle to end what was then 26 years of military rule that Suu Kyi, daughter of independence hero Aung San, emerged as the leader of this movement. For her efforts to pressure the newly installed junta that seized power in a bloody coup in September 1988 to release its grip, she spent much of the next two decades in detention.

Those days, however, are over. Released from house arrest in late 2010, Suu Kyi has since achieved a modus vivendi with the current quasi-civilian government that was formed two years ago, ending 50 years of direct military rule but leaving the influence of the armed forces in Burmese politics largely intact.

When protests against the Letpadaung mine erupted last year, many of the affected villagers, who complained of being forced off their land and suffering the effects of environmental degradation, may have hoped that Suu Kyi would champion their cause. After all, the previous year, she had backed the protest movement against the Myitsone hydropower dam in Kachin State, which had become a national cause celebre.

Aung Zaw is founder and editor of the Irrawaddy magazine. He can be reached at [email protected]

That project, remarkably, was suspended by President Thein Sein, in a move that sent a strong signal to critics of his government that he was serious about being more responsive to public demands. Suu Kyi—and the governments of the West—were suitably impressed.

Like the Myitsone dam, the Letpadaung mine is a Chinese-backed project. The chief investor is Wanbao, a subsidiary of China’s state-owned arms firm Norinco, and its joint-venture partner is the Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings Ltd (UMEHL), a powerful military-owned conglomerate.

In 2010, when 7,800 acres (3,156 hectares) of farmland were confiscated to expand the mining operation, there was little protest because at the time, Burma was still firmly under the heel of the military. It was only last year, after the success of the anti-Myitsone dam protests, that local villagers were emboldened to voice their grievances, attracting support from much of the rest of the country.

That support quickly turned to outrage, however, when local authorities launched a pre-dawn raid on protesters on Nov. 29, injuring more than 100 people. Images of severely burned Buddhist monks— victims of incendiary devices used as part of the crackdown—appeared on protest posters in towns and cities around Burma.

It was at that point that Suu Kyi, who had previously stayed out of the dispute, entered the scene. When Thein Sein formed a commission to investigate the incident and assess whether the mining project should go ahead in the face of growing opposition, he appointed Suu Kyi to lead it.

In the ensuing months, the commission kept its cards close to its chest. The protests continued, but Wanbao expressed confidence that it would be allowed to go ahead with the project, while adding that it would respect whatever decision the commission reached.

On Tuesday, when the commission released its report, Wanbao was not disappointed. It agreed to follow the report’s recommendation to uphold environmental safeguards, create benefits for the community and compensate villagers for seizing their lands. UMEHL also released a statement making a similar pledge.

And so Suu Kyi, who just last week had a meeting with the Chinese ambassador in Naypyidaw, helped the government to avert a further deterioration of its relationship with China. “We have to get along with the neighboring country, whether we like it or not,” she reportedly said, according to the Guardian newspaper.

Some analysts say that appointing Suu Kyi to head the commission was a wise political decision on Thein Sein’s part, since it shifted the burden of balancing China’s concerns with popular demands onto her shoulders. For Suu Kyi’s part, taking on this role gave her a chance to assure Beijing that its legitimate interests in Burma would be protected if she comes to power after elections in 2015.

The decision did not go over well with the protesters, however. Thwe Thwe Win, one of the protest leaders, bluntly told Associated Press: “The commission should think about the welfare of their own people—poor local villagers—rather than good relations with China.”

Other activists, such as 88 Generation leaders Min Ko Naing and Ko Ko Gyi, who turned down an invitation to join the Letpadaung commission, have so far remained silent on its final report. One wonders, however, if they, too, will come out and say something against the report and Suu Kyi.

Certainly the people of the Letpadaung area did not hesitate to express their unhappiness with the final decision reached by the report. On Thursday, Suu Kyi was confronted by hundreds of angry villagers as she attempted to make her way to a public meeting to explain the report’s recommendations.

“Nothing is more important than our people,” she told a crowd that had surrounded her motorcade. “I am responsible for the good of you. Even though the Letpadaung Mountain will be gone, we can still create a good and pleasant environment for you.”

From now on, however, she can no longer count on Burma’s people to believe her when she says that everything she does is in their best interests. Those days, too, are over.


56 Responses to The Letpadaung Saga and the End of an Era

  1. DASSK must explain villagers that the world poorest Burmese needs money from the profit of mining instead of less profit from farming industry there with the expert opinion. Then, added that DASSK has no military power to investigate why U pai company back by than shwe’s private military thugs has enough money to join venture with rich China as well as having more profit portion in this investment. DASSK should tell her intention that she or her relatives will set up a private company for mining business in Burma with US or China in future. As such , we poor Burmese will buy her company share from our small funeral money to gain profit for each poor Burmese people equally and fairly. Like Rohyingya and ethnic issues , DASSK must say she has no military power to investigate or to understand or to explain the some unusual events ( U pia investment, money and gaining lucrative business) relating to this mining business. Where is the U pai’s profit and money will go for ? Why Is U pai get the lucrative business in Burma ? How does U pai become more richer and richer? How does U pai set up company? If so, NLD or DASSK can set up company , like U pai for the sake of all Burmese people , particularly for ethnics if DASSK promises to honor Panglong agreement. DASSK should not be in the trips and tricks of criminal fox than shwe who can stir up the naive villagers to against DASSK in this unwise speech. DASSK needs cleaver and smart advisers in NLD. Blaming Business minded China is very low vision from some naive villagers. Does PLA ( Chinese army ) point their guns to than shwe for Burmese business? Than shwe is seller from his shop and China is buyer to come in the shop.

  2. Thanks to Ko Aung Zaw–
    A remarkable short history of Burmese politic involved by ASSK .
    Infact it is the end of an era for ASSK.
    Peoples wish opposition.
    ASSK chose cooperation.
    Peoples want Democracy.
    ASSK thanks Cronies.
    Peoples love fighting peacock.
    ASSK chats like a parrot.
    At the end
    Our land and river will not be the same and
    Our goal of Democracy will not be gained .
    So, ASSK deserved to be blamed

  3. The actual end of era is Irrawaddy getting free rides from NGO money.

    Daw Su is still very much reliable, truthful and much much smarter then anyone at media.

    She once again proved her leadership ability by choosing what is right for better Burma.
    She recommends using country’s natural resources wisely for economic development.
    Her motive is very clear and obvious unlike some media who has no interest in country’s economic development but their own stupid little news agency.

    • If you can’t take criticism you shouldn’t be in politics, or talking about it only to make superficial, subjective and emotive comments, and make a fool of yourself.

      Now there is not just this kind of pingback from a respected international newspaper but even one of your favourite broadcast media the VOA is reporting it.

      What the Irrawaddy doesn’t do is personal attacks unlike so many members of the ASSK personality cult do. Shame on you and grow up.

      • Why the hell do you think that people commenting on this website are in politics? Because of you want to play dirty politics on her, you are calling people who loves her as cult. According to you, Irrawaddy is a respected international newspaper. So is ASSK, a well respected international icon. The difference between this article and VOA news is that VOA reported information on the event, not attacking her personality.

        • If politics is the sole remit of politicians, the more fool you. And to so many of you she can do no wrong. if that’s not a personality cult I don’t know what is.

          Criticism cannot always be taken as a personal attack. Notice also that this piece is plainly signposted commentary. If the kitchen is too hot, get the hell out of there.

          • Moe Aung. I don’t know who you are. I see you defending this article so eargly in comment of every person in this article. If you want to talk about it more, come to singapore. Here there is a lot of people like me, who want to ask the people like you and the author of this article in person. One thing for sure, we are not politicians. We are just normal citizen of Myanmar who is working in singapore , and who is still in touch with the people in myamar in general.

  4. Suu Kyi knows how to talk the talk but now it’s time for her to walk the walk and she’s definitely walking in the wrong direction!
    In the West Suu Kyi became an icon because Western media put her up on a high moral pedestal (freedom-fighter, human rights, role model for the kids etc.) and even compared her to people like Nelson Mandela who spent some time in a real jail (apartheid is a different deal anyway). What goes up can come down very quickly, since “image” is based on perception.
    In Burma, her reputation rests 90% on her father’s reputation as a national hero (which is another topic!) and the poor and down-trodden peasants of Burma are desperately looking for a “saviour” to free them from the despotic military rulers and their Chinese paymasters.
    Who is the real Suu Kyi? Is she really what the West think who she is (which is mainly based on her rather academic rhetorical speeches that she can deliver with an Oxford accent)? Who does she represent? The poor rural farmers or just her self-glorifying ambitions to become the next President? Burma needs a French Revolution.
    Power to the People! Down with the Oligarchy!

    • This is a very superficial, short-sighted view. The thug junta is playing you like a cheap saxophone to discredit DASSK. Don’t assist them with knee jerk nonsense.

      • OK if you think my comment is shallow (I was just trying to be polite!) , then let me repeat what I said recently:
        Suu Kyi smells the scent of power in Naypyitaw (the scent of jasmine is
        so yesterday!) and she is hell-bent on becoming the next president of
        Burma, come hell or high water, Rohingyas or Kachins, Chinese copper
        mines or jade mines, 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 feels the need to get some “brownie points”
        from the ex-generals (her former captors) and their Chinese paymasters
        in order to share the “Burmese peacock throne” with them and that’s why
        she said “I am very fond of the army” recently and she is now supporting
        the Chinese copper mines, jade mines, gas/oil pipelines etc. that are
        destroying the environment and the livelihood of the local population.
        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 wants to play now.

      • One more thing: This copper mine used to belong to Ivanhoe, a Canadian mining company. Because of sanctions that Suu Kyi demanded from the West (she never demanded similar sanctions from the Chinese or even from Singapore!), Ivanhoe was forced to sell the mine at a ridiculously ow price to WanBao. Tayza who brokered the deal got a hefty bribe from the Chinese. Than Shwe got cash for building Naypyitaw (he had to promise the pipeline and the dams also in the MoU’s he signed)
        Suu Kyi should openly talk abut these things instead of saying: “China is a friendly neighbour” (that we are very afraid of LOL)

        • andamange
          In other way wrong , could you say that Ivanhol is very cleaver to do “adventure and then escape wisely”. In fact , Ivanhol broke its country law itself so Ivanhol should not get anything from their wrong doing. China is greedy and unwise so China went into the messy thing from the trip and traps of than shwe and cronies ( fox).
          China side said that their portion from the profit is the lowest among all crony , U pai and Burma government in figure. China invests money, time and technology with poor calculation of risk. If China no longer feel that there is no threat of US to them in term of energy for military use or industrial use for its country aggressively in time, Burma is no value for China in future. Please, see the history why US invaded Cuba and now Cuba is no longer in value for US who becomes superpower.
          How can you challenge China’s claim. China said they sign the business contract according to the rule of present current bama law. If there is no idiot china at that time, that mine is zero value in this world poorest region. If the benefit of mine is bigger than that of farm land for the sake of poor , why you do not want to explore mine there. Tell me your common sense from the angle of the world poorest country, Burma. Do you think Burma become superpower very soon because of rich of ethnics rich natural resources , being able to bully all ethnics easily and readily and being able to write English?. So, do you want to say Burma does not need mining industry ? You can proudly say that Burma is not more poorer than Philippine, Thailand , Indonesia so there is no Burmese domestic helpers in the world but there might be more Burmese sailors and prostitutes than others.
          Now, DASSK do sympathy on idiot China. Are you jealous on China who gains sympathy from DASSK? DASSK should meet the village representatives before she talked. If so, she can avoid the confrontation in some way as she might be aware that there is a trip and trap from fox. When will DASSK talk why, how and what U pai get this lucrative mining business ? It might be the last X card for DASSK for her political maneuver in show game i hope.

          • @Norman Hla: Yes, I agree with you. You need to teach them how to judge wisely.

          • I don’t think the poor villagers at Letpadaung or Kyaukphru or Phakant are getting rich because of these Chinese mega-projects. Ask some Africans. Chinese are doing the same thing there! If the copper mine is not important to them why does it show up in the official Chinese newspapers that often? If the border regions of Burma are not important for the Chinese why did they show Naw Kham’s execution on CCTV and why do they arm UWSA to the teeth? If the pipeline is not important to them why are they in a hurry? If ethnics prefer China to the West, why do so many political refugees from Burma seeking political asylum want to go to places like Fort Wayne Indiana or Bergen Norway or Denark or Canada etc. Why don’t they just go to China like the late Brigadier Kyaw Zaw (he was at least an honest man!)?
            Well, if people of Burma have no courage and are scared to death of the greedy ethnocentric Chinese, go ahead, just become Chinese slaves, scrape everything that the country has, including gold from the pagodas and just give it to the Chinese. In 50 years or so Burma will become Nan Zhang (SouthernTibet) and we might then see self-immolations of Buddhist monks just like in Tibet. If you think ethnics are treated well in China just ask the Tibetans and the Uyghurs.

    • It isn’t correct that Daw Suu’s reputation rests 90% on her father’s reputation because about half of the population particularly young generation do not thoroughly know about Bo Gyoke. Yes, some kids think that martyrs’ day is the day of a well-known singer R-zarni’s day. Bo Gyoke’s spirit is embedded in Daw Suu sou,l but she has her own reputation.
      For people power revolution, you don’t need to go back to French revolution- we have modern people power revolutions such as People Power Revolution 1 and 2 in the Philippines and PAD People Power rRevolution in Thailand.

      • How did Aung Zaw get an idea to write this article? He must have been crazy. Even though his analysis are not comprehensive and true enough, it entertains us because of the comments.

  5. Some people may abuse freedom of democracy. Just wonder Who can satisfy the wishes of 60 million citizens?

  6. Aung Zaw has done a good analysis-cum-report !

  7. In fact, it is the DAWN of DASSK as a statesman, not merely as a populist opposition leader. She mentioned it very clear that it, she believes, is the best option for the country under given conditions during her trip to Letpadaung area. She could have chosen the populist decision but she didn’t. That’s her sincerity. That’s her integrity which pushes her up to the level of a state-builder. No doubt she definitely garnered more support for her decision from the people across the country.

    • I totally agree with you. This is for the good of the country as a whole. Foreign investors are closely watching the situation. No one wants to lose millions in investment. People who complain about this are short-sighted.

    • Funny enough, this is true. she got support from all around the country who pile blame on the poor villagers for not lying down and dying quietly and quickly.so that the Tayoke Sit-tut and Bamar Sit-tut companies can take whatever they want leaving behind all the poisons they do not want.

      This is New Burma with CANNIBALISM at work.

      People drooling for money (called shyly “development”) – as they are not able to make on their own – want to sell out the property used by other people and got angry when the people living in the area for generations minding their own peaceful business are -surprise, surprise- not so keen to curl up and die.

      Next, the wave will wash up just about every one cheering on the Tayoke now. Then the table will be turned.

      Cannibalism at the best example.

      • People support the commission’s report to let the villagers lie down, die quietly and quickly?
        What an exaggeration! Wanna create a drama?
        Yours is the tunnel vision usually found in the people with communist tha-nge-na. The commission’s report clearly stated that environmental and social impact of the project should be addressed properly according to the international standards. And the confiscated lands be adequately compensated at market prices (this process is already started and villagers are receiving monetary compensations for their lands taken away), in addition to proper relocation of those in the project area, development of new farmlands and the creation of job opportunities for the locals who would lose their traditional livelihood of farming.
        By any standards, this report is comprehensive and have factored in the interests of all stakeholders and possible risks at present and in the future when calculating the outcome of the options on the table. What is more important is to monitor the implementation of the suggestions made by the commission to ensure that the locals are compensated and supported adequately for their loss.
        Criticism is good and should be welcomed, provided that it is done so with both eyes keep open.

      • If you don’t like the New Burma with Cannibalism at work, why don’t you go to Burma and try to change the situation. Instead of making some silly comments on this website and blaming ASSK on everything she does, you can be the one doing all the grand work for Burma and I will be the first person to support you when you’ve actually done one. If you don’t have any abilities to do any development work for Burma or charisma to influence people to listen to you, blame on yourself first before you are putting all the blames on her and calling “a cult” to her supporters.

    • I am really saddened to read reports that some people are unnecessarily attacking Daw Aung San Suu Kyi for the report on Letpadaung Copper Mining Project which was recently issued by the Commission led by her. Reasonable people can have different opinions and she and members of the Commission gave their opinion in the report while others have obviously different opinions. As a dutiful political leader, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi explained to parties concerned why she formed her opinion. Those who don’t like it can give their counter-arguments without animosity. The report isn’t a decision about the future of the project although it may influence the decision. It is the government who will ultimately decide it.

      It was true that some authorities needlessly committed violent attacks on the protesters a few months ago and many local people have also suffered hardships due to the project. However, these can be solved with peaceful discussions and negotiations.

      There are people and groupings who have never expressed their opinions before about the project are now giving remarks against the Commission’s report and while doing so attacked Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s motives. How silly is it? Some might even be gloating over her temporary difficulties. “Schadenfreude” isn’t outlandish to many people.

      I am of the opinion that she is very sincere in giving her opinion and, as stated, she was only thinking for the good of the country and benefits of the people who have been affected by the project. It would be a tragedy if some people resort to unlawful activities in order to show their frustrations.

      I can’t agree more with (U) Phoe Auu when he said “it is the DAWN of DSSK as a statesman.” She could have chosen the easiest way to please the protesters by saying no to the project even though most of the naysayers don’t have any reasonable points.

      I have more respects for her now than before and wish her success in her service to our beloved country and the majority of the populace.

      • Correction: There are people and groupings who have never expressed their opinions before about the project but they are now making remarks against the Commission’s report and while doing so attacked Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s motives.

  8. I fully support BetterBurma and Phoe Auu’s commemt.Daw Suu made very wise decision for our country.

  9. Of Course ASSK is right here and prove that she put the interest of the whole Myanmar higher, – the majority than a view , even so sorry poor farmer in one region. The same happened in Germany near Cologne with a Coal Mine already 30 years ago even 300.000 people wrote a petition against, but the interest of 70 million was different also that is democracy. ASSK won for the farmers, instead of 5 or 80 kyat an acre now they can get 1.700.000 Kyat an acre. One should look who brokered the 5 to 80 kyat deals for China, that will be the same which ordered the bloody crackdown,– this man and group must be identified and put to justice, most probably China Comp Wan Bao but also Sagain PM Tha Aye involved that time as he was very much dealing there in 2010.

  10. How to kill 3 birds with 1 stone – A despot’s way:

    Bird-1. Gen Than Shwe was able to trade off copper project survival against environmental hurdles;

    Bird-2. DASSK’s popularity was tarnished, which could be his ultimate desire & off course whom he hates most;

    Bird-3. DASSK’s political career is in jeopardy & hence her presidential dream/2015 are being dashed to Gen Than Shwe’s delight !
    ref.
    The Letpadaung Saga and the End of an Era / The Irrawaddy Magazine http://www.irrawaddy.com

  11. Let’s get this clear.
    The Lepadaung project started some where in 1984.
    The Geologist who surveyed and map out the ore contents are still alive.
    Why don’t they come out and clear things up.
    The Myanmar got a saying that if your mother give you a bowl of rice don’t trade that for a bag of rice. Something like that.
    dont’ get fooled mining can be a vital source of foreign exchange for the country.
    Don’t be old fashioned.
    Or is it just that you want to jeopardise whatever the government is doing?
    Think do. Look drive.

  12. “Modus vivendi” means 1. way of living or coping 2. agreement between people who agree to differ –

    (Oxford English Dictionary)
    Maybe should have said a “live and let live policy.”

    Thein Sein just made her face the villager’s anger, that’s all –

    What kind of man is that? A military man.

  13. George Than Setkyar Heine

    Letpadaung Copper Mine Project Investigation Report BARES the FACT the Chinese have PROMISED Suu Kyi with a POST in the present ruling hierarchy at Naypyidaw if not the PRESIDENT of BURMA yet, I bet.
    She MET with the Chinese ambassador before the REPORT was made public, Remember?
    The Chinese have NEVER APPROACHED much less TALKED with Suu Kyi since decades ago until she met the communist at Naypyidaw if I remembered right.
    The fact that UWSA led by Bao Youxiang coming into the PICTURE as well is a cause for concern – Chinese involvement in the political picture and others in Burma – certain to culminate in more scenarios of the Chinese communists flexing their muscle and claiming TURF (territory) ahead of the possible involvement of OBAMA led WEST in the form of INVESTMENTS and NGO’s amongst others in Burma.
    Of course the Chinese communists are NO IDIOTS much less SUCKERS to IGNORE the FACT Burma FALLING IN with OBAMA led West and LOSE their TURF (Burma) in addition to GETTING CAGED economically and militarily as well on the long run.
    BURMA is IN THE CHINESE DRAGON’S MOUTH to be precise and truly said as well today.
    And the Letpadaung Saga has finally BLOWN the COVER – who’s side is Suu Kyi on – in addition to WHO – the people of Burma or the Chinese and their cohorts at Naypyidaw – SHE IS WORKING FOR ACTUALLY.
    The BOTTOM LINE is BURMA is a SOVEREIGN STATE among NATIONS on EARTH.
    And ONLY the PEOPLE of BURMA CAN DECIDE/DETERMINE/EXERCISE their DESTINY and WAY of LIFE accordingly and at their discretion as well.
    Suu Kyi has LOST HER WAY as evidenced at this time and juncture of course.
    There is NO OPPOSITION PARTY (NLD) in Than Shwe/Thein Sein PUPPET PARLIAMENT as obviously today.
    And there is NO OPPOSITION LEADER as well as she has already turned into a COLLABORATOR working with the ruling elite at the Naypyidaw BACKED by the Chinese communists today any bets?
    Hence, our STRUGGLE for Burma’s DEMOCRACY, FREEDOM and HUMAN RIGHTS is in a QUANDARY at the moment as the country’s freedom fighter and icon of world democracy on whom we have HEAPED much HOPE and SUPPORT as well has ABANDONED/BETRAYED her PEOPLE and SIDED with the pseudo-civilian military backed hierarchical rule at Naypyidaw, in turn BACKED by the Chinese communists with a long held aim/agenda of GLOBAL HEGEMONY no less.
    Well, folks, LET’S START from SCRATCH and SQUARE ONE for that MATTER if you don’t want to CALL IT QUITS yet.
    And certainly I WON’T of course, if you ask me!

  14. I can only conclude that this article was written solely for bashing ASSK. It doesn’t provide any informed facts to the people who want to take views on going ahead with the Letpadaung copper mine project.
    The author tried to compare Myitsone dam project and the Letpadaung copper mine project with no sufficient factual information. Apart from pointing out the similarities of Chinese- backed projects orchestrated by UMEHL, he didn’t say anything about the environmental, social or economic impacts of the very two different projects in comparable terms. Simply not enough information on why ASSK or people who backed the protests on Myitsone dam project but not the Letpadaung copper mine project.
    He then went on saying;
    “88 Generation leaders Min Ko Naing and Ko Ko Gyi, who turned down an invitation to join the Letpadaung commission, have so far remained silent on its final report. One wonders, however, if they, too, will come out and say something against the report and Suu Kyi.”
    which obliviously showed that he wanted them to join his bashing ASSK party.
    I’ve been a regular reader of Irrawaddy and grateful to be able read news of Burma for several years. But this kind of article failed the journalism so badly and the objectivity of the media.

  15. Last time when i said that ” we have to rely on 88 generation to build genuine democracy base on long lasting peace and harmony among Burma ethic and other ethic nationalities in Burma” . I already see what DSSK up to., after i read her secret letter to Senior General Than Swhe dated 11-09-2009. Cooperating with the Military Junta informally and firmly control by Maung Aye and Than Shwe is the last bullet for DSSK to become President of Burma. Because She really understood that by opposition to this two guys , there is zero chance to become the president of Burma position. She have 50-50 chance by cooperating with this two guys.If the people of Burma reject her in next 2015 election , she will be the same having no chance to become president of Burma. If Burma people accept her in 2015 she have a chance of her dream come true , the chance to become the president of Burma. Remember that during in 1988 , she can not cooperate with U Nu because she really like to be icon for Burma no matter how many student , monk died. .If she cooperated with U Nu in that time , Burma do not have to go Military regime for more than two decade. Her NLD paty expelled some of 88 generations who really want to build genuine democracy with harmony among all ethic in Burma. Now she is 67 years old, the only chance she have to become president of Burma is only in 2015 . So she have to use all chance she get no matter what kind of tactic is, even cooperating with this two guys . So far The chances she have to become president of Burma are i(1) If Burmese people did not mind she is cooperating with the military ( than swe and maung aye) or if Burma is not lifted sanction till 2015 by the world communities even though Thein Sein tried hard very much (2) If Than Shwe and Maung Aye thought that she may be the best instrument for lifted sanction by the world communities . Because Than Shwe and Maung Aye ‘s dreaming is lifted sanction by world communities so that they can buy good gun , strong military which include having nuclear arm , which never be succeed by ethic arm freedom fighter even all of them be come solid unity and then act like or become king of Burma.

  16. Daw Suu has done lots of good things for her people and the people love her. Now, in Lapadaung case, she may make a misjudgement. for this mistake, should we hate her and kcik her out of the politic? As the nature of human being, we may make mistakes, but it is not for self and there is, at least, an explanition, nothing wrong with it.
    Go on Daw Suu! we love you, trust you and need you!!!!!
    Should we have a forum about this issue? Let’s meet together for a talk.

  17. Thanks, Ko Aung Zaw for this commentary. I have lost trust and believe in DASSK since 1996 after reading her interview with an Australian journalist Joanna Pitman published in The Australian Magazine, April 20-21, 1996. In the 1990 election I voted for NLD because of DASSK though I am not impress with the NLD canditate representing the constituency I lived in. Being grown up in a close country Socialist Myanmar/Burma I was so naive at that time and wholeheartedly believe in DASSK after listening to her talk at the Shwedagon Pagoda. I have been wrong. Now living in the west has opened my eyes. There is a thing called swinging voters. This is our rights to change our believe anytime. According to Derek Tokin (Network Myanmar) though NLD secured 80.82% of seats but won only 59.87% of the valid votes in 1990 election. We may have hanging Parliament in next election.

  18. Nice job. Quite a party for “Let’s blame it all on Suu Kyi” crowd huh? Well, since we all know that the villagers will stop at nothing, not event at the cost of destroying every single effort, hard work, and pace for the country made by people including DASSK, why not start a full-fledged, all-out, nationwide protest? That would really ( I mean, really) please foreign and domestic political pariahs. Let’s give another reason to regressive hardliners why they should take a giant U-turn and another reason for the Chinese corporation to back them, financially. Many people think it’s too late for a U-turn. Oh boy, don’t be so naive. Of course they can. Who do you think have the guns, huh?

    Then, you people would do well to learn that how much crying out on the account of less than 300 stubborn villagers would cost, when everything that has been done is undone. Just read a rather poorly written essay of prominent writer Maung Won Tha. “Please listen to what they have to say”, says he. Oh yeah, we did. They say “Stop it at once or that’s it”. So, shall we enforce DASSK to force-close the whole damn project because the 300 innocent villagers say it is wrong! By the way, have they read the report yet? That’s right, they haven’t. See, We Burmese are the only people on Earth who have the super-smart ability to pass judgement on a very comprehensive report which has a significant impact on the future of the country and decide it is totally wrong, WITHOUT even reading it! Only in Let Pa Daung!!.

    Now that they shut everything out and managed to kill the sentiments the people previously had for them. Believe me when I say DASSK will continue to have the people’s support because there people who knew, since the day she undertook this task when “men” didn’t, that days like these would come, and would provide their utter support for the lady. She already mentioned that even though we might not be able to stop the project, she’d make sure there would be clean and livable environments for the locals. She is not the government. The copper project won’t just stop in a snap by her saying so. The report is a very comprehensive, professionally written analysis of the entire project and the environment. But it is a report, nevertheless. It doesn’t carry any mandate whatsoever for the future of the project.

    I feel for the villagers. But what I don’t understand is why some people (who can read) wouldn’t correct what isn’t right and stand by the person who is trying to reach a mutually beneficial goal. How can you people live with yourself when you yourself know damn well that the project cannot just be stopped without consequences and domino effects which, when they happen, will out of everyone’s control?

    There is always an offer on the table. Civilized negotiations don’t always mean that everything will result in your favor. But there’s always one we can live with.

  19. Thanks, Ko Aung Zaw for this commentary. I have lost trust and believe in DASSK since 1996 after reading her interview with an Australian journalist Joanna Pitman published in The Australian Magazine, April 20-21, 1996. In the 1990 election I voted for NLD because of DASSK though I am not impress with the NLD canditate representing the constituency I lived in. Being grown up in a close country Socialist Myanmar/Burma I was so naive at that time and wholeheartedly believe in DASSK after listening to her talk at the Shwedagon Pagoda. I have been wrong. Now living in the west has opened my eyes. There is a thing called swinging voters. This is our rights to change our believe anytime. According to Derek Tokin (Network Myanmar) though NLD secured 80.82% of seats but won only 59.87% of the valid votes in 1990 election. We may have a hanged Parliament in next election.

  20. We thank for Ko Aung Zaw’s factual and candid presentation. The best part of his article is the last paragraph.
    Can it be assume that by showing willingness to protect Chinese interest at present episode and for those in the future, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is courting the Chinese help and support to ‘tame’ the Myanmar Generals for her NLD to attain power in 2015?

    Maung Aung.
    p.s. ‘We’ instead of I, in my society of elderly people like me and also younger ones alike
    all agree with thanks for his presentation.,

  21. ASSK recently said that “POLITIC IS NOT LIKE PLAYING A DRAMA (ZAT)”.
    Infact she is wearing like an actress or opera singer and talking like an actress or parrot.
    In Current DRAMA she is playing a part of a villain who is happy to see weeping poor
    peoples and delight in seeing cronies and Chinese.
    Drama will go on and she can get a good reward for her part.

  22. Don’t think that DASSK era is ending. Do you know, here in singapore there are a lot of people who are supporting her quest for reform? We don’t believe in those politician and media who are doing nothing except to make chaos to sabotage the reform process. Irrawaddy is going down very soon.

  23. From your article and what is happening in Monywa with Chinese company, I remember a history piece. Precisely because it is about copper. In old history, it is already purified, but in Monywa it is still buried under mountain. Do you remember Min Gone bell? Which is home at Shwedagon Pagoda in Rangoon now. After British invaded Burma, British rulers want to take Min Gone bell and melted it down so that they can cast Cannon for war. British fail to take the bell and the bell was sank in Irrawaddy river. Later, the bell was recover from the river bed and placed at Shwedagon Pagoda. As a piece of copper, Min Gone bell is not worth that much. However, as a nation identification, it is a pride. It always remind us that foreigners always come in to our land and want to take away what we hold dear to our heart as a nation pride, whether it was a bell, a river or a mountain in Monywa. Some suppose to be generous such as Aung San Suu Kyi said it will profit for the country and local people. However, I asked myself how will the project really going to help the locals? First undisputable fact is that locals lost their land and those locals depend their life on those lands for generations. Eventhough some land are not agriculture land they relate to religion and nature for the local to rely on their moral believe and to enjoy the nature that nature itself has given to them. It is not because of Burmese people do not welcome investments from outside countries, it is unethical to destroyed their life by pointing the guns at their heads at former regimes time and throw them at threat “Rule of Law” now. “How can a law be just if the law intentionally destroyed a weak person or a group of people”?

    A few years ago, when I started learning Philosophy, I read Plato’s Republic translated by R.E. Allen. In professor Allen introduction one paragraph caught my eyes and it is time to share here in Irrawaddy page.

    “Justice as the Interest of the Stronger”
    Thrasymachus makes faction an element in the very definition of government: justice is the interest of the stronger. Law defines what is just and unjust for those subject to it; it issues from the party in power, which is the stronger, and which governs in its own interest. Law is essentially commands backed by punishment, or in H. L. A. Hart’s excellent phrase, “orders backed by threats.” Tyrannies make tyrannical laws, democracies democratic laws; each makes laws in its own interest and punishes those who transgress as wrongdoers. So justice, because it is defined by law, is the interest or advantage of the stronger. Thrasymachu’s account of justice is a variant of legal positivism: he assumes that law may have any content. But Thrasymachus also assumes that law is purposive , in that it aims at the interest of the stronger. This is the chink in his position.
    The laws (714c-715a) suggests that the interest of the stronger may indeed be the primary purpose of law in given cities_ when they are ruled by a faction. But even if Thrasymachus were descriptively right, and every actual government is in the interest of a faction, it would not follow that it must be so as a matter of definition. Borrowing from the Euthyphro, Thrasymachus’s definition does not state essence but accident; it is at best an extensional equivalence. His definition suggests a universality and necessity which in no way follow from his premises.

    “The Argument from Mistake”
    Socretes in his reply to Thrasymachus puts an argument from mistake, a variant of which he had already used with Polemarchus in determining who is friend and enemy: the stronger, in laying down laws, can misapprehend their own advantage. The content of law then becomes inconsistent with the purpose of law, and if it is just to obey the law, justice will sometimes consist in doing what is not in the interest of the stronger. Thrasymachus’s proposed definition fails. To save it, Thrasymachus suggests that the ruler as ruler must possess the art of ruling, as art, is infallible.
    Socretes replies that every art aims not at the advantage of the artist but at the advantage of that to which it is ordered or directed. Medicine, for example, aims at the cure of sick people, not wages for the doctor. So, Thrasymachus’s definition of justice as the interest of the stronger fails again: reasoning from his own analogy, an art of ruling would be directed to the interest not of the ruler but of the ruled.

    OK, I have copied enough from professor Allen book. If you want to expand your mind more, I recommend to buy his book “Plato, The Republic”.

    For Aung San Suu Kyi, you are in wrong foot now, change before it is too late. If you don’t stand for justice, you are hurt than help to the people. Why should those people in Monywa be punished? Is it because they live upon the pile of natural resources? Those resources are for the future of Burma when we have our own ability to extract ourselves. We do not need Chinese to exploit our resources. They have to leave.

    • Sorry, Tom and also George TS Hein. I have long given up reading both your comments. It’s just too long, and what’s with the block capitals in George’s lengthy paragraphs?

  24. Many here seem to miss the point that almost any lucrative business venture can be proclaimed to be in “the interest of the country”. And on good grounds, given Burma’s underdevelopment.

    If attracting Chinese investment was the only yardstick in political development then Aung Zaw’s article would truly be a bunch of hot air. Except that it isn’t.

    Forced relocation of villagers with little or no compensation, attacks on civilian protestors using incendiary weapons… these things cannot be overlooked in the interest of even the most ludicrous business investment!

    The most serious failing of the commission is the fact that nobody has been held responsible for the burns that dozens if not hundreds of people shall carry for the rest of their lives.

    I think Awng Zaw’s article is both timely and to the point. It is high time the world stopped treating DASSK as an angel and take her for what she really is – a politician. And if you believe in democratic values, this means that she is not above critique for ethically hypocritical choices.

  25. Daw Suu is a leader of Burma. When she represent Burma, she should dress up as a leader. This is part of her job. We should be prould of the way she dress. She looks very elegant with Burmese dress.

  26. If you all dare, come and do legal politics in Burma. Politics means “doing good for the people and country”. Not the popular politics. it is all because of DASSK, people now have this opportunity to vent out their voice. You can criticise the policy if you know better policy and if you know better way to do it. Don’t just simply sit down and try to sabotage what other people are doing.

    • Makes you wonder who indulged in popular politics until she became a prized collaborator in legal politics. It’s because the generals wanted detente with the West so badly that they released her, suspended Myitsone and gave people this opportunity to vent out their voice.

      Policy. What policy? Other than chanting democracy, now rule of law. Whatever happened to fighting unjust laws? And who sabotaged whom at Letpadaung?

  27. People are missing the most important point. It is not merely about the compensation of the land, where the money is going and political play but everything about the health issues in relation to the poisons already in place.The answer lies in the 4 children already affected by neurodegenerative disorders. Environmental toxins have a huge impact on the central nervous system and the disorders will manifest depending on the area of the brain that is affected. We are seeing just the tip of an iceberg and plenty more will unfold soon. This will range from nervous system disorders to cancer ( cancer loves acidic conditions and sugar ), thyroid disorders, pulmonary diseases etc. The sad part is that it will not be limited to that area alone but will involve the country as a whole as the toxins are in the air, water and the soil. I feel so sorry for our Burmese people who are in the dark with regards to the important health issues facing them.

    Is it worth shortchanging our country’s major health issues to whatever the reason that was given to go head with the project?

    • That’s just it. They are killing the land and killing the people. Like the old Burmese expression – mining for treasure in their own father’s brow.

  28. We need to make public aware of the health consequences waiting in the wings so that this kind of environmental hazards shall not be repeated in other parts of the country. It may already be too late. In Myanmar,we have a very high incidence of cancer,stroke,hypertension, heart disease, diabetes thyroid disorders etc which are chronic debilitating diseases relating to chronic inflammation in the body from free radicals in the environment. People need to self educate to protect themselves and their loved ones.

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