Protest March to Seek Justice

Burmese villagers march to demand action against those behind a bloody crackdown on copper mine protesters.

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Buddhist monks stick pictures of those who were injured in the police crackdown on the Letpadaung copper mine protesters, Nov. 30, 2012.

About 2,000 villagers staged protests Tuesday calling for action against those who staged a bloody crackdown exactly two months ago on demonstrators demanding the closure of a controversial Chinese-backed copper mine in northwestern Burma.

They also demanded that the authorities drop charges against several activists who were arrested by police in the Nov. 29 crackdown on protesters at the site of the Letpadaung Copper Mine project at Salingyi township in Sagaing division.

About 100 monks and 11 others, according to authorities, were injured in the raid, the toughest crackdown on demonstrators since President Thein Sein's reformist government came to power in March 2011.

"Today marks the second month of the crackdown and the authorities haven’t taken any action against those responsible for the raid, but people who protested have been arrested and charged," student leader Thaung Htike told RFA's Burmese Service.

Anti-mining protesters who were arrested have been charged with sedition, inciting unrest, and disturbing the peace, according to rights groups.


"The authorities also haven’t made any inquiries into the crackdown," Thaung Htike said. "We are holding this demonstration today to let the public know that we will continue to protest against the Letpadaung copper mine if the inquiry commission decides to continue with the project."

Following the crackdown, the government set up a commission led by opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi to investigate the feasibility of the mine project located near Monywa city. But there has been no major probe on the crackdown itself.  

Photos of burns sustained by monks in the crackdown, reminiscent of the violent suppression of the 2007 monk-led Saffron Revolution movement by the previous military junta, prompted a public outcry in the Buddhist-majority country.

While the government has issued a public apology for the crackdown, protesters say it has not gone far enough and called for legal action against authorities responsible for using violence in the raid.


On Tuesday, about 1,000 villagers began the march from Ton village before others joined them along the way to the site of the offices of Wan Bao Co.—a subsidiary of state-owned Chinese arms manufacturer North China Industries Corp. (Norinco), which jointly owns the project with the Burmese military’s Union of Myanmar Economic Holding Ltd.

Letpadaung villagers have said that they do not want pollution from the mine to destroy the area and that authorities had confiscated some 8,000 acres (3,000 hectares) of farmland from 26 villages to make way for the mine.

"The main reason for the demonstration is to stop the Letpadaung copper mine project," Thaung Htike said.

Police were on standby during the protest but no action was taken against the participants, he said.

"We will continue to hold demonstrations until we get what we want."  

Reported by Ei Ei Khaine for RFA's Burmese Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.


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