News / Asia

    Burmese Copper Mine Protest Grows

    Burmese monks take part in a protest march against a Chinese-backed copper mine, Monywa Burma, November 21, 2012. (VOA Burmese Service)
    Burmese monks take part in a protest march against a Chinese-backed copper mine, Monywa Burma, November 21, 2012. (VOA Burmese Service)
    VOA News
    Hundreds of Burmese villagers and monks are defying government orders to end a 10-day protest against the expansion of a Chinese-backed copper mine in northwestern Burma.

    Protesters remained in several camps near the Monywa mine, ignoring a warning to vacate by Tuesday or face unspecified action.  A VOA reporter says the number of protesters is growing.

    Activists reported no police action against the encampments.  The protesters appear to be testing the limits of new freedoms introduced by the Burmese government that took office last year, ending decades of military dictatorship.

    Burma's Home Ministry says mine operations were suspended November 18 because of the protest.  It said the occupation must end to allow a parliamentary commission to make a fact-finding visit.

    • Burmese protesters at a camp site outside a Chinese-backed copper mine, Monywa Burma, November 23, 2012. (VOA Burmese Service)
    • Monks and protesters at a Chinese-backed copper mine, Monywa, Burma, November 22, 2012. (VOA Burmese Service)
    • Protesters at a Chinese-backed copper mine, Monywa, Burma, November 22, 2012. (VOA Burmese Service)
    • Protesters at a Chinese-backed copper mine, Monywa, Burma, November 22, 2012. (VOA Burmese Service)
    • Protesters at their camp at a Chinese-backed copper mine, Monywa, Burma, November 22, 2012. (VOA Burmese Service)
    • Monks and protesters at a Chinese-backed copper mine, Monywa, Burma, November 22, 2012. (VOA Burmese Service)
    • Monks lead a protest march against a Chinese-backed copper mine, Monywa, Burma, November 21, 2012. (VOA Burmese Service)
    • Monks take part in a protest march against a Chinese-backed copper mine, Monywa, Burma, November 21, 2012. (VOA Burmese Service)
    • Monks and protesters march in a demonstration against a Chinese-backed copper mine, Monywa, Burma, November 21, 2012. (VOA Burmese Service)

    Villagers say mine expansion will cause environmental, social and health problems, and also accuse authorities of unlawfully seizing land for the project.

    Protesters say they will remain until the government agrees to scrap the joint venture between a Chinese weapons maker and a Burmese military-backed corporation.

    Burmese military officials say canceling the project would discourage much-needed foreign investment.

    Earlier this year, Burma relaxed laws against public protests.  But activists still risk a year in jail if they do not go through the proper channels to get permission for demonstrations.

    Burmese activists have been emboldened since President Thein Sein stopped construction of a Chinese-funded hydropower dam in the northern state of Kachin last year.  Environmentalists opposed that project due to similar concerns about its social and economic consequences.

    Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi is due to visit the copper mine on Thursday to hear protesters' grievances.  Her National League for Democracy party is calling for an independent commission to investigate the situation.

    Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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    Comments
         
    by: Tom from: Birmingham
    December 01, 2012 3:32 PM
    Suu Kyi visited the copper mine site and talked to the locals. Her party is also setting up independent commission to investigate the situation.
    She seems to show interest in ethnic Buddhist (Myama) and doing everything she can. Where was she when ethnic Kachin have problems with Chinese building hydro- power station? Why didn't she visit Kachin state and see what's happening up there? She didn't care because they are Christians? Please put these questions to her. I don't think she reads our comments on here.

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