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Suu Kyi to head Monywa investigation

ASSk-MonywaBurma’s President Thein Sein asked opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Saturday to head an investigation into the planned expansion of the controversial Monywa copper mine and the degree of force employed by police in dispersing protesters from the site, according to a report by Reuters.

The news was confirmed in Burma’s state-run media.

The move comes after riot police moved in on Thursday to clear protesters from the site using batons, water cannons, tear gas, smoke bombs and, allegedly, some incendiary devices. At least 50 people were injured, including more than 20 Buddhist monks. Scenes and images from Monywa Hospital of burned monks in scolded robes quickly appeared in social media and drew condemnation from around the world.

Protests against the crackdown quickly spread to Mandalay, Rangoon and other cities.

A statement by a government information team saying that excessive force was not used by security forces in Monywa was retracted on Friday by the President’s Office as it took steps to placate tensions.

The President's Office then announced on its website that Thein Sein had set up a commission, headed by Suu Kyi, which had a broad remit to look into whether the expansion of the mine should go ahead, and into the measures taken to control the protests.

“The committee will encompass a broad cross-section of interests, including three local villagers and an official from the military-owned Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings Ltd, a partner in the copper mine project alongside a unit of China North Industries Corp, a Chinese weapons manufacturer,” the statement said, adding that a report should be presented by the end of December.

Local residents say the $1 billion mine expansion entails the unlawful confiscation of more than 7,800 acres (31.5 sq km) of land.

On Saturday, local police in Monywa apologized to 10 senior monks for the violence used in putting down the protest. However, when Sagaing Division Police Chief San Yu said the incident was “an accident” he was reportedly jeered by onlookers.

Burma’s state-run The New Light of Myanmar on Saturday confirmed that a commission had been formed to look into the copper mine project, though it did not remark on the violent crackdown. Instead it reminded readers that a law was in place to allow peaceful assembly and peaceful procession.

“Under this law and related bylaws, citizens have been authorized to speak and air their grievances through permitted means,” it said. “However, since 18 November protestors of [Latpadaung] Copper Mining Project had trespassed into project area in which Section 144 was imposed and organized protest camps and disrupted the operation of the project. Authorities concerned have repeatedly tried to negotiate and coordinate for demands of local people since the outbreak of complaints against [Latpadaung] Copper Mining Project. However, the negotiations collapsed as demonstrators continuously demanded the end of the entire project,” The New Light of Myanmar said.

“With regard to ongoing protests, Pyithu Hluttaw [Lower House of Parliament] decided to form an independent national level commission,” it reported.

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Last Updated ( Sunday, 02 December 2012 11:32 )  

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