Violent Crackdown on Monks Protesting China-backed Mine in Myanmar

During the Buddhist celebration of the Full Moon Day of Tazaungmone, Myanmar riot police violently dispersed the protest camps set up by Buddhist monks and villagers who are opposing the China-backed copper mine project in Monywa, Sagaing Division. The mining protest began last February.

The project is a joint venture between the government-backed Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings Ltd. (UMEHL) and Wanbao, a Chinese company. UMHEL reportedly compensated displaced farmers with US$610 per acre. But there are villagers whose farms were leased out to the Chinese company without proper notification and they have been very vocal in urging the government to stop the mining project.

On November 27, 2012, the government ordered protesters near Latpadaung and Kyayzintaung area of Sagain Division to leave the six protest camps. When protesters refused to leave the camps, the riot police used water cannon and tear bombs to disperse the crowd. But there are unconfirmed news reports that the police also used other weapons such as fire bombs or phosphorus bombs and even Napalm.

About 50 monks were badly injured with burned skin.

A monk hospitalized with burn injuries. Photo from CJ Myanmar Facebook Page.

A monk hospitalized with burn injuries. Photo from CJ Myanmar Facebook page

Myanmar netizens immediately condemned the use of brutal force to disperse a peaceful protest. Myo Set notes that right after the historic visit of United States President Barack Obama to Myanmar, the government showed its real attitude in dealing with protesters and dissenters:

Dear Hilary, as a Burmese citizen, I would like to clearly inform you that the Burmese Government is now brutally cracking down the mass protest led by monks, activists and farmers against Chinese copper mining investment in Central Burma near Monywa.

It is the first response of Burmese government since the U.S. has abolished its sanctions on Burma.

No negotiations were carried out despite the appeals from protesters.

Ko Htike condemned[my] the duplicity of the government:

They could have easily foreseen that the situation in Latpadaung would deteriorate and deliberately failed to consult the public.

Now, it's clear both parties can't step back. Public has no choice but to move forward. If brutal crack down continues, Latpadaung region would be a cursed place.

The question for Latpadaung is that will U Thein Sein play the same trick as he did in the Myit Sone Dam issue?

The Myit Sone Dam project was suspended by the government after it was vigorously opposed by residents. But construction work has been restored, according to news reports.

Lwin Aung Soe requested[my] President Thein Sein to defuse the tension in the area:

I'm requesting President U Thein Sein who is supposed to protect the public welfare to grant their wishes.

1) Please hold a press conference regarding the crack down of protest camps asap.

2) Please exert strong leadership to stop the threats and brutal crack down against the protests.

3) Please find an acceptable resolution by forming a committee as agreed by the Parliament to solve the Latpadaung Copper mine issue asap.

Some netizens are comparing how the government responded to the mining protest and the riots in Rakhine state. Here are some comments on Facebook.

Phyoe Pyeat Min[my] : What courage! Perhaps their courage is only for locals of same nation. They are worshipping rioters in Rakhine. The army dogs…

Rainy Casper[my] : They never used such methods of cracking down during the riots where locals suffered. Now the monks are treated in such way. Inhumane animals..

Maynadi Oo[my] : For the sake of China, they are beyond cruelty when dealing with public. Where on earth did that Ministry of Home Affairs go during the riots in Rakhine state??

The riots involving Rohingya and Rakhine peoples have displaced thousands of villagers. The government was criticized for its failure to end the riots and resolve the conflict

The president's office issued a statement justifying the decision to end the protest in order to uphold the rule of law and develop stronger friendship between China and Myanmar which later become a sarcastic joke among netizens. Alex Rain asserted[my] that the protest went peacefully without any kind of rioting.

The peaceful protest and rioting is not the same.

Police have to use weapons to resolve the rioting. Force is necessary to stop rioters from destroying public places etc. It is to keep the whole public safe.

Now, they burn sleeping monks at 3 a.m. and still claim it's for the rule of law, like a fool.

A few hours later after receiving numerous harsh comments criticizing the government, the same website announced[my] that the statement has been revoked and taken down from the website.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi went to meet up with Wanbao company representatives and residents in order to negotiate between government and the protesters. She spoke in the rally and agreed to assist in the negotiation.


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