Copper Mine Solidarity Protests Spread

By Saw Yan Naing & Nyein Nyein 30 November 2012

RANGOON and CHIANG MAI—Several hundred Buddhist monks in Burma and Thailand launched separate protests in Mandalay, Rangoon, Magwe and Bangkok on Friday to condemn the brutal crackdown on a peaceful anti-copper mine protest in Sagaing Division which injured around 70 people.

In Mandalay, more than 100 Buddhist monks and activists rallied in front of the Eindawya Pagoda compound in Chanayethazan Township from around 1 pm until 3 pm to show solidarity with protesters in nearby Monywa who called for a complete shutdown of the Chinese-backed copper mine.

Buddhist monks and members of the All Burma Federation of Student Unions condemned the violence at the Letpadaung mountain range and called for those responsible to be brought to justice.

Leading Abbot U Thawbita told The Irrawaddy from Mandalay, “We strongly condemn this violent crackdown on the peaceful protesters including monks. The authorities should solve this problem immediately.”

Around 30 monks also protested at Sule Pagoda in the heart of Rangoon, calling for transparency over the vicious raid against their fellow clergymen at the Wan Bao Company headquarters. They also urged the Chinese firm to leave Burma and asked President Thein Sein to find a solution to the grievances of local people.

“The government should be transparent and brief civilians about copper mining projects. They should explain what are the good and weak points about the project,” said U Pamaukha, a monk who led the protest in the former capital.

Demonstrators called on the authorities to prosecute those who took part in Thursday’s violence and also criticized the police for using such aggressive tactics. Buddhist monks and their supporters also held separate protests in Chauk in Magwe Division and Bangkok.

Around 50 monks rallied in front of Burmese Embassy in the Thai capital to show their support. Ashin Tayza told The Irrawaddy on Friday, “The government must agree to the people’s demands if they are moving forward with democratic reforms.”

Protesting monks also sent letters to Thein Sein via the embassy that called for no more brutal crackdowns, to take responsibility for injured monks and activists, to urgently form an investigation commission and take legal action on those responsible for the attack.

In the letter, they also urged the United Nations and international natural environment conservation organizations to investigate both the police raid and ecological damage from the mining project.