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

Video Miami Cubans Divided on New US Policy

While older, more conservative Cuban Americans have promoted anti-Castro political movement for years, younger generations say economically, it is time for change More

2014 Sees Dramatic Uptick in Boko Haram Abductions

Militants suspected in latest mass kidnapping of over 100 people in Gumsuri, Nigeria on Sunday More

Video Cuba Deal Is Major Victory for Pope

Role of Francis hailed throughout US, Latin America - though some Cuban-American Catholics have mixed feelings 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.
Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacksi
X
December 19, 2014 12:45 AM
The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid