Anti-Copper Mine Activists Detained

By Zarni Mann 14 December 2012

Local authorities in Mandalay and Monywa have arrested at least 10 activists involved in protests against the Letpadaung copper mine in Sagaing Division, in the latest effort to quell months of unrest over the controversial project.

In Mandalay, Aung Maing San and four other members of the Upper Burma chapter of the All Burma Federation of Student Unions (ABFSU) were arrested at their homes late Thursday evening, as was Thein Aung Myint, an activist from a group that has called for lower commodity prices.

All six were charged under Section 18 of the Peaceful Assembly Act for holding a protest without permission. Relatives and colleagues of the detainees said they are currently being held at the Chan Mya Thazi Court in Mandalay.

The activists, who were protesting against a government raid on earlier demonstrations near the mine site late last month, were offered release on bail, but refused.

“They said they don’t want to be freed on bail. They said they accept the consequences of their actions, but didn’t do anything wrong—just hold a peaceful march to demand justice for the victims of the brutal crackdown,” said ABFSU (Upper Burma) spokesperson Ye Yint Kyaw, who met with the detainees this morning.

Meanwhile, four activists from Monywa were also detained yesterday, but have since been released on bail.

On Wednesday, protests were held in many parts of Burma to demand a formal public apology for a pre-dawn raid on Nov. 29 that left more than 70 Buddhist monks injured. The monks were at the forefront of protests against a Chinese-owned copper mine that began several months ago.

One of the monks, 64-year-old U Taikha Nyana, was transferred to a hospital in Bangkok on Wednesday to receive treatment for severe burns, while four others are expected to join him after they receive new passports.

According to a report by the state-run newspaper The New Light of Myanmar on Friday, the government provided financial assistance to the injured monk, who it said was “not in a critical condition.”

“The monk left Yangon General Hospital of his own accord this morning to receive medical treatment in Bangkok,” the report said. “Due to his financial problem, the government remitted 1 million baht [US $32,600] to Bangkok General Hospital in advance.”