Riot police move in to end Myanmar copper mine protest

Wed Nov 28, 2012 6:57pm EST
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By Aung Hla Tun

YANGON (Reuters) - Riot police fired water cannon and tear gas early on Thursday to disperse people protesting against the forced eviction of villagers in northwestern Myanmar to make way for a copper mine expansion, residents and activists said.

Truckloads of police arrived at camps set up near the Monywa mine in the Sagaing region to protest against the $1 billion project, which locals say has meant the unlawful confiscation of more than 7,800 acres of land.

"They started to disperse the crowd by using water cannon at Kyaw Ywa camp at about 2:55 a.m.," Shin Oattama, a Buddhist monk who had been helping the villagers, told Reuters by telephone.

"They then shot some sort of canisters that caused fire at the camp. We just don't know what sort of weapon it was." He said about 10 monks were injured, two of whom were in critical condition.

"We are now seeking refuge at a nearby village. There's no ambulance, no doctor to take care of the injured," he said.

The copper mine is run by a unit of China North Industries Corp, a leading Chinese weapons manufacturer, under a deal signed in June 2010 after Canada's Ivanhoe Mines Ltd pulled out in 2007.

It is backed by the military-owned Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings Ltd (UMEHL).

Authorities had warned the protesters late on Tuesday to clear the site by midnight that day so that a parliamentary commission could carry out an investigation. State television said all project work had been halted since November 18 because of the protests.   Continued...