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White phosphorous used on Latpadaung protesters, say lawyers


Burmese riot police used white phosphorous to disrupt a sit-in protest by monks and activists at the Latpadaung copper mine site on November 29, says a group of human rights lawyers.

A Buddhist monk is treated for severe burns by a medic in Monywa. (PHOTO: Hein Htet/Mizzima)
A Buddhist monk is treated for severe burns by a medic in Monywa. (PHOTO: Hein Htet/Mizzima) 
According to a report on Wednesday by Thomas Fuller in The New York Times, the Upper Burma Lawyers Network claims that a canister taken from the scene after the crackdown was analyzed at a laboratory in Bangkok where experts confirmed that phosphorus residue was found in the canister.

Images of Buddhist monks being treated for severe burns after the Latpadaung incident shocked the world.

The New York Times quoted 64-year-old Ashin Tikhanyana, who remains in intensive care in a Bangkok hospital, as saying on Wednesday: “I saw a fireball beside me and I started to burn. I was rolling on the ground to try to put it out.”

The senior monk was transferred to Thailand because over 40 percent of his body was burned and no hospital in Burma had the facilities to care for him, the report said.

The Burmese government initially claimed that tear gas and smoke bombs were launched by security forces at the protesters at the copper mine in Sagaing region. However, Dr. Chatchai Pruksapong, a burn specialist caring for Tikhanyana, is reported as saying that his injuries were not caused by tear gas, but that the monk was seared by something “severely flammable.”

White phosphorus is frequently employed in warfare—either as a smoke screen or as an incendiary weapon. However, it is rarely if ever used by police in crowd control situations.

Used in both world wars, the Vietnam-American War, and by US-led forces in Iraq, the devastating effects of white phosphorous were most recently witnessed by global TV audiences during the Israeli assault on Gaza in 2008-09.

Burma’s state media made no mention on Thursday of these latest accusations.

On Wednesday, The Irrawaddy reported that more than 2,000 activists and local residents had gathered near the Latpadaung copper mine the day before to demand that Burma’s authorities take action against those responsible for the violent crackdown on protesters in November.

Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi was appointed chairperson of an investigation commission to determine if excessive force had been used in the Monywa incident, and to report on whether the project should proceed. The committee’s report was scheduled to be released on January 31; however, Suu Kyi is currently on tour in South Korea and no statement has been released by the inquiry commission.


Last Updated ( Thursday, 31 January 2013 14:40 )  

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