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Copper mine protesters arrested and charged

Burmese authorities have arrested and charged six activists who protested in Rangoon on Monday against the Latpadaung Mountain copper mining project, according to eyewitness Thiha Win Tin, a member of the All Burma Federation of Student Unions (ABFSU).

The six protesters, including two females, did not apparently seek permission to stage the public demonstration, and were subsequently arrested and charged under Section 18 and Section 505 (b) of the Penal Code for inciting unrest and disturbing public tranquility.

“When the six were arrested, they were told they could not apply for bail, and were sent to Insein Prison,” Thiha Win Tin told Mizzima. “Section 505 (b) is related to disturbing public tranquility. The former junta used it frequently as a way to arrest political activists. The protest did not incite people. It was peaceful. We just expressed the needs of citizens.”
Former National League for Democracy (NLD) member Naw Ohn Hla was among the six arrested. Others known to be detained are Ko Wai Lu, Ko Ko Kyaw and Ye Lin, according to Thiha Win Tin. He said that many people evaded capture otherwise the number might have been much higher.

On Monday night, security forces ransacked the houses of some of the protest organizers, said Thiha Win Tin. “At 10 pm, about 10 security officials and quarter heads came to my house,” he said.

Thiha Win Tin said that he attended a meeting on Sunday night to discuss organizing the protest. On the following morning, he and three others were apprehended by special branch police. However, after questioning, Thiha Win Tin said he was released that same afternoon.

He told Mizzima that he believes the Latpadaung copper mine issue is related to all citizens’ rights. He said that the environment will suffer and the historical site where a highly respected Buddhist monk, the Venerable Ledi Sayadaw, lived and meditated will be destroyed.

“To be frank, how can we trust this government?” he continued. “If the government wants to embark on a road to democracy it should treat people with a democratic spirit. Only if they change the old actions and habits of the former junta will the citizens accept that the government is undertaking reforms.”

The authorities issued arrest warrants in September for Han Win Aung and Aung Soe from the Rangoon Civil Society Network, alleging that they were inciting people to protest against the Latpadaung mountain affair.

Hundreds of residents and Buddhist monks are continuing their protest at six different sites around Latpadaung Mountain and have refused to move despite harassment by local authorities and orders to leave the site.

The Monywa copper mine, a joint venture in Sagaing Division between military-owned Myanmar Economic Holdings and the Chinese Wanbao Company, has been the subject of controversy for months after local media alleged corruption over the project.

President Thein Sein's government earlier this year approved a bill allowing peaceful protests as part of the political changes sweeping the former army-ruled country. However, demonstrators must obtain permission in advance.

For more background on the Latpadaung project:

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 28 November 2012 15:51 )  

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