Suu Kyi urges mine negotiations
Published 30/11/2012 | 03:59
Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi is urging a negotiated resolution to protests over a military-backed copper mine in north western Burma after the government's biggest crackdown on demonstrators since reformist President Thein Sein took office last year.
Riot police used water cannons, tear gas and smoke bombs to break up the 11-day occupation of the Letpadaung copper mine, wounding dozens of villagers and Buddhist monks.
The move risks becoming a public relations and political fiasco for Thein Sein's government, which has touted Burma's transition to democracy after almost five decades of repressive military rule.
In a visit scheduled before the crackdown, Ms Suu Kyi met with company officials and protesters and was scheduled to meet with local officials.
The mine is jointly operated by a Chinese company and a holding company controlled by Burma's military, and activists say as the project expands, villagers have been forced from their land with little compensation.
Through state television, the government initially acknowledged using the riot-control measures but denied using excessive force against the protesters. In an unusual move, it later retracted the statement without explanation.
Protesters suffered serious burns after the crackdown near the town of Monywa. It was unclear if people were burned by the weapons themselves or because the weapons ignited fires in shelters at the protest camps.
"I didn't expect to be treated like this, as we were peacefully protesting," Aung Myint Htway, a peanut farmer whose face and body were covered with black patches of burned skin, said.
Another protester, Ottama Thara, said: "This kind of violence should not happen under a government that says it is committed to democratic reforms."