Three Activists Arrested for Anti-Mine Protest in Rangoon

By San Yamin Aung 30 December 2014

RANGOON — Police in Rangoon arrested at least three protestors on Tuesday who led a demonstration outside the Chinese Embassy the previous day against the killing of 56-year-old Khin Win at the site of the controversial Letpadaung copper mine last week.

Khin Win was shot dead by police during a protest at the site of the Chinese-backed project on Dec. 22.

Nearly 100 protestors attempted to lay wreaths for Khin Win in front of the Chinese Embassy in Rangoon on Monday but were blocked by police from accessing the street where the embassy is situated. After negotiations between the two sides failed, the protestors finally laid the wreaths in front of the security forces and left the area.

Police arrested three activists involved in the protest, Naw Ohn Hla, Nay Myo Zin and Sein Htwe, in Dagon Township on Tuesday morning, according to Ma Thandar, who co-founded the Democracy and Peace Women Network with Naw Ohn Hla.

“The police have detained them. We still can’t meet with them,” Ma Thandar said, adding that it was not clear on what charges, and for how long, the activists would be detained.

“We arrested them because they protested near the Chinese Embassy without permission and disgraced the government,” said Thaung Sein, a police lieutenant from Dagon Township.

He said police had opened a case against seven protestors who led the demonstration on Monday, including the three detained activists, under Article 353 of the Penal Code for committing assault or criminal force to deter a public servant from the discharge of his duties, and Article 505(b) of the same code—a broadly defined charge punishing those who spread or make statements that can “alarm the public” or incite offenses against the state.

“We will show the Chinese Embassy that we, the public, don’t want the project and want the Chinese company Wanbao to leave. If they leave, the military-owned Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings will stop [the project] too,” Naw Ohn Hla told The Irrawaddy during the demonstration on Monday.

Last week, the Chinese Embassy in Rangoon issued a statement on the unrest at the Letpadaung mine project site, expressing its “deep condolence” over the death of Khin Win and concern for Chinese citizens injured in the protests.

The embassy expressed support for the ongoing, peaceful implementation of the project and stressed that overseas Chinese enterprises were required “to abide by the laws and regulations in the host countries, while carrying out social responsibility and obligations and focusing on environment protection.”

The Letpadaung copper mining project is a joint venture between Wanbao and the Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings (UMEHL). It attracted widespread notoriety in November 2012 when police used incendiary devices against demonstrators, including Buddhist monks, during a brutal crackdown at a protest camp.

The Irrawaddy’s Bone Myat contributed reporting.