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Burma Mine Protesters Await Report from Suu Kyi Committee

  • VOA News

A copper mine in central Burma that is jointly run by the Burmese military and a Chinese company has been the source of controversy since December, when police clashed with a group of protesters, wounding scores. Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi heads the parliamentary committee investigating the incident that is expected to release a report soon.

These protesters say they were firebombed in their camp by Burmese police while demonstrating against the Letpadaung mine. They say the mine has had a disastrous environmental impact on the local community and forced many from their homes.

Aung Myint Htwe's face was injured in the fray. "The bombs separated into pieces… and at that time, the bomb spread in front of his face… I didn’t see anything at that time… the bombs had smoke. I had to cover my face… and I just ran," he said.

An independent report submitted to parliament earlier this year accused the police of using the incendiary weapon white phosphorous - a claim which the government has rejected.

Rangoon lawyer Aung Thane co-authored the report. He wants the government to punish those responsible for deploying a weapon the Geneva Conventions bans for use against civilians. "Why do they use these weapons, how are they getting [these] weapons [and] from where?" he asked.

The crackdown at the Letpadaung mine is seen as a key test of how much dissent authorities will tolerate.

At a Letpadaung-themed art exhibit in Rangoon, protest leaders like Thwe Thwe Win expressed concern that the parliamentary investigation, even if headed by democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, will not halt the military-backed mine’s operations. "Even when the report comes out whether it is by Aung San Suu Kyi or not … she does not really hold the power to make decisions," stated Thwe Thwe Win.

Protestors say they are prepared to resume protesting should the results of the report not address their demands.
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