Four activists in northern Burma have been taken into police custody for their role in demonstrations tied to a controversial copper mine and are refusing bail in protest of their arrest, relatives and fellow activists said Friday.
The activists had participated in demonstrations this week in Mandalay demanding an apology for last month’s government crackdown on a rally at the Letpadaung mine in Sagaing division and are charged with breaking a law on peaceful protest.
The four—Aung Hmine San, Than Htike, Min Naing Lwin, and Thein Aung Myint—were arrested late Thursday and offered release on bail.
“They took my husband to the court on 30th Street for a hearing, but they didn’t let him meet with anybody. Then they referred his case to the district court,” Min Naing Lwin’s wife Nay Su Hlaing told RFA’s Burmese Service.
“My husband needs two people to guarantee his bail, so we have to look for two people,” she said.
But all four activists refused their bail offers and were taken to Mandalay’s Obo jail on Friday.
Fellow activist Ye Yint Kyaw, an All Burmese Federation of Students Union leader who met with the detainees Friday morning, said they were refusing bail in protest of the charges.
“For doing what we believe in, we [activists] wouldn’t want other people to use their property to bail us out because it would burden them.”
“We can’t accept being accused. That’s why [the four] refuse to be bailed out,” he said.
The activists have been charged under Section 18 of the Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession bylaw, which bars public gathering without official permission, and face up to six months in prison.
On Wednesday, hundreds of activists and monks led protests in nearly a dozen cities and towns across Burma calling for further government apology for a brutal Nov. 29 raid on protest camps at the copper mine site.
Ninety-nine monks and 11 others, according to the authorities, were injured in the pre-dawn raid at the mine, which was the toughest crackdown on demonstrators since a reformist government came to power in the country last year.
Photos of burns sustained by monks in the raid, reminiscent of a violent government crackdown on the 2007 monk-led Saffron Revolution movement, prompted a public outcry in the Buddhist-majority country.
Protesters have said official apologies for the Letpadaung crackdown have not gone far enough and called for legal action against authorities responsible for using violence in the raid.
They have also demanded the unconditional release of all activists held over protests across the country against the copper mine, including six in Rangoon released on bail this week who are facing charges for inciting public unrest.
Burma’s government has formed a commission to look into the future of the mine, but last month's crackdown is not among the objectives of its inquiry.
The project in the Letpadaung mountains is a joint venture between the Burmese military’s Union of Myanmar Economic Holding Ltd. and Wan Bao Co., a subsidiary of state-owned Chinese arms manufacturer North China Industries Corp. (Norinco).
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.
Reported by RFA’s Burmese Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Rachel Vandenbrink.