News / Asia

Copper Mine Controversy Tests Burma’s Leaders

Burmese protesters at their camp at a Chinese-backed copper mine, Monywa Burma, November 22, 2012. (VOA Burmese Service)
Burmese protesters at their camp at a Chinese-backed copper mine, Monywa Burma, November 22, 2012. (VOA Burmese Service)
Daniel Schearf
Burma is overdue to release a report on a controversial copper mine backed by the military and China but facing strong opposition. Rights activists say the investigation into the mine is a test of the new government and of democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who was appointed head of the commission looking into the copper deal. 

Aung San Suu Kyi visits Buddhists monks wounded in police crackdown on protests against a copper mine project, Nov. 2012.Aung San Suu Kyi visits Buddhists monks wounded in police crackdown on protests against a copper mine project, Nov. 2012.
x
Aung San Suu Kyi visits Buddhists monks wounded in police crackdown on protests against a copper mine project, Nov. 2012.
Aung San Suu Kyi visits Buddhists monks wounded in police crackdown on protests against a copper mine project, Nov. 2012.
​The commission appointed by Burma's president to examine the Letpadaung copper mine was due to release its findings by January 31.
But the date came and went without a report or immediate explanation on how the investigation into the central Burma project was proceeding.

Burma’s largest copper mine is run by a Chinese company in cooperation with the Burmese military-owned Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings Company Limited (UMEHL). 

Their plan for a $1 billion expansion came up against protests from local villagers who say they were unfairly compensated and are worried about the environmental impact.  

Late last year, a months-long demonstration was violently dispersed by police.

Thein Than Oo, head of the Legal Committee at the Burma Lawyer's Network, says they uncovered evidence the police fired canisters of white phosphorus, a powerful incendiary, to break up the protest.

"They want to warn the whole entire people that don't touch…M-E-H-L.  This is a matter of business.  It is untouchable.  And, second, is to intimidate people," he said.

Thein Than Oo says they want to know who ordered the police action, as some suspect members of the military may be involved. 

Despite the controversy over the crackdown, it is unclear if Aung San Suu Kyi’s commission even has a mandate to investigate it.

David Mathieson, an Asia researcher with Human Rights Watch, says this investigation is new territory for Burma's civilian-led government.

"The protest and the crackdown on the protest, and all the other issues around Letpadaung and the copper mine, they're serious enough as it is.  But, this is also a very important test case in how the authorities handle peaceful protests and land rights issues and how the authorities deal with it.  So, I think it has great symbolic importance," he said.

The copper mine deal between the Chinese company and Burma's military was struck during military rule and is criticized for a lack of transparency.

Aung San Suu Kyi has already weighed in on the dispute, saying that although the rights of villagers need to be protected, Burma also needs to honor its agreements with foreign companies.

Mathieson says the commission's report is also a test case of Aung San Suu Kyi as a politician.

"As someone not just has to be involved in investigating a very serious incident but in actually bringing along different members of the political kaleidoscope with her.  So, I think we're really going to see how effective she is as a political leader through this exercise," he said.

NLD spokesman Nyan Win says when the report is finally released it should indicate how Aung San Suu Kyi handles the competing pressures.

"We should wait and see [the] final report, what pressure, and what she can do for the benefit of the Letpadaung area people," said Nyan Win.

Meanwhile, Burmese media reports this week indicate protests have continued near the mine. China’s ambassador to Burma also weighed in on the issue this week in meetings with the minister of mines.

A statement by China's Embassy says the ambassador expressed hope that Burma would earnestly protect China's business interests and help resolve any outstanding problems.

You May Like

Ukraine Purges Interior Ministry Leadership With Pro-Russian Ties

Interior Minister Avakov says 91 people 'in positions of leadership' have been fired, including 8 generals found to have links to past pro-Moscow governments More

US Airlines Point to Additional Problems of any Ebola Travel Ban

Airline officials note that even under travel ban, they may not be able to determine where passenger set out from, as there are no direct flights from Liberia, Guinea or Sierra Leone More

Nigerian President to Seek Another Term

Goodluck Jonathan has faced intense criticism for failing to stop Boko Haram militants More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid