Six people—five farmers and an activist—were arrested on Thursday morning near the village of Hse Te, Sagaing Division, in the latest crackdown on protests against the controversial Letpadaung copper mine near Monywa.
The protesters, including activist Aung Soe of the Rangoon People’s Support Network, were detained after security forces moved in to stop the farmers from plowing fields in Hse Te and the nearby village of Moegyopyin.
The farmers, who have refused compensation from the mine’s owners—Chinese state-owned company Wanbao and the military-owned Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings Ltd—began plowing the fields three days ago.
Police and firefighters arrived on the scene at around 9 am on Thursday and assaulted the farmers as they were working in the fields, according to activist Han Win Aung. The farmland is owned by a woman named Ye Ye Win and is located just outside of Hse Te, he added.
Security forces told the farmers to stop farming as the area has been declared off limits. Soon after, however, they started the crackdown.
Tin Zaw, a farmer from Tone, another village in the area, said that he was beaten on the leg for taking part in the plowing of the field. A doctor at a local hospital said that some of the injured had received gunshot wounds.
“They shot at the villagers, and I can still hear the gunfire,” Han Win Aung told The Irrawaddy at 10 am local time, about an hour after the crackdown began. He added that many farmers and members of a documentation team had also been severely beaten.
“They hit our members who were documenting the case and destroyed our cameras,” he said. “Ko Thu, who was filming the incident with a video camera, was in the back with the stock of a gun and stomped on by someone in army boots.”
Since taking control of the area, the police have begun a manhunt for other villagers who escaped the crackdown, he added.