Myanmar authorities have arrested and charged four activists who staged a protest against a China-backed copper mine in the commercial capital Yangon, as a government team arrived at the mine site in the country's northwest Wednesday to investigate the cause of deadly clashes a week ago.
Three of those charged following Monday’s protest near the Chinese Embassy in Yangon were arrested on Dec. 30, with a fourth protester arrested later that same day, sources said.
“The Dagon township police station opened cases against Naw Ohn Hla, Nay Myo Zin, and Daw Sein Htwe,” a protester named Min Min told RFA’s Myanmar Service.
“They were remanded at the court in Dagon township at 2:00 p.m. and sent to Insein Prison” in Yangon, Min Min said.
A fourth protester, Tin Htut Paing, was arrested and placed under investigation in the evening, sources said.
The four were charged under Articles 353 and 505(B) of Myanmar's penal code for interfering with public servants in the discharge of their duties and inciting offenses against the state, sources said.
The arrests followed clashes Monday evening with police near the Chinese Embassy in Yangon, where about 100 activists demanded the closing of the Letpadaung copper mine in northwestern Myanmar’s Sagaing division.
On Dec. 22, Burmese police at Letpadaung shot and killed a woman who had joined other protesters attempting to prevent the mine's Chinese operator Wanbao Co. from fencing off land for the project for which villagers said they had not received adequate compensation.
Khin Win, who was in her 50s, “died from a bullet to the head” after police fired rifles at farmers who threw rocks and launched slingshots at them, a local source said.
Local officials later confirmed that the bullet which killed her had been fired by police.
Meanwhile, a government team arrived in Letpadaung on Wednesday to look into the causes of the recent violence.
“We are at Letpadaung to investigate riots in the area,” Nyan Zaw, a member of the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission, told RFA.
“We have formed a group that is separate from the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission to do this,” he said.
Sagaing division officials have also said they will form a commission of inquiry into Khin Win’s death.
Villagers have opposed the Letpadaung project for years over what they have called a lack of fair compensation for their confiscated lands as well as environmental destruction and the defilement of religious structures.
Opposition party leader Aung San Suu Kyi said last week that failure by authorities to implement an earlier commission’s recommendations for better police training and greater transparency in the land appropriation process had led to this month’s deadly clash between protesters and police.
Reported by Khin Pyae Son for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Richard Finney.