Burmese Mine Activists Hold Hunger Strike

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burma-copper-mine-oct-2012.JPG Wastewater at the Chinese-owned Letpadaung copper mine in central Burma's Sagaing division, Oct. 17, 2012.

More than two dozen villagers staged a hunger strike in northern Burma Thursday over the lack of progress in an official investigation into the feasibility of a controversial Chinese-backed copper mine they say has occupied their land and is polluting the area.

The 26 representatives of 26 villages situated around the site of the Letpadaung copper mine project at Salingyi township in Burma's Sagaing division said the fast was also to protest inaction against police who launched a brutal crackdown on protesters at the site exactly three months ago.

About 100 monks and 11 others, according to authorities, were injured in the Nov. 29 raid, the toughest crackdown on demonstrators since President Thein Sein's reformist government came to power in March 2011.

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 and activists had wanted those directly responsible for the raid to be punished.

Thaung Htike, an activist from the University Students Network, expressed frustration over the sluggish response from the parliamentary commission and its refusal to investigate the November crackdown.

“We haven’t seen any result from investigation, even though it has been three months already,” Thaung Htike told RFA’s Burmese Service.

“We are staging a hunger strike today from 12 p.m. to 12 a.m. at the Ton village camp [near the mine site], as we want to demonstrate our objection to the parliament’s ignorance on this case.”

The commission announced earlier this month that its full report is still being compiled after a provisional report was submitted to President Thein Sein. It was previously reported that the report would be released on Dec. 31 and then on Jan. 31.

Before staging the hunger strike on Thursday, villagers made offerings to Buddhist monks and prayed for those who were injured in the bloody raid during which, some activists allege, security forces used highly flammable white phosphorus.

The villagers also plan to hold an event on March 1 to “drive away evil spirits,” which they say “possessed” authorities during the crackdown.

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

The parliamentary commission had recently met several monks who were among those wounded in the protest crackdown.

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

Reported by Yadanar Oo for RFA’s Burmese Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.


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