Thousands Gather to Mark Copper Mine Crackdown

By Zarni Mann 30 January 2013

More than 2,000 activists and local residents gathered near the Letpadaung copper mine in Sagaing Division on Tuesday to demand that the authorities take action against those responsible for a violent crackdown on protests in the area two months ago.

“We want to urge the authorities to charge those who are responsible for the brutal repression that happened on Nov. 29, and for the government to stand on the side of its citizen,” said activist Thaw Zin.

Amid heavy security, the protesters marched from the village of Ton to the banks of the Chindwin River holding pictures of Buddhist monks who were severely burned in a pre-dawn raid in late November that aimed to end months of protests against the controversial Chinese-owned mine.

The protesters also carried placards demanding the closure of the mine and condemning a ban on displaced villagers returning to lands that were confiscated from them to make room for the project. They also insisted that a lawsuit against anti-mine protesters be dropped immediately.

“We will protest until the mine stops completely,” said one activist who asked not to be named. He added, however, that the protesters would wait until an investigation commission led by opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has completed an inquiry into the mine and the November incident before taking further measures.

Meanwhile, in Rangoon activists offered food to injured monks currently receiving treatment at Rangoon General Hospital. Afterwards, the monks held a press conference to describe their experience of the crackdown.

Nearly 100 people, including monks and local activists, were injured when riot police reportedly used tear gas, water cannons and incendiary devices in a bid to close a protest camp located outside of the copper mining company, a joint venture of China’s Wan Bao Company and the military-owned Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings Limited.

Two Buddhist monks with severe burn injuries are currently receiving medical treatment at a private hospital in Bangkok, Thailand, while 10 other monks were hospitalized at Rangoon General Hospital’s burn unit.