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Monks continue nationwide protest

Apology demanded after brutal crackdown

Monks continue nationwide protest
Buddhist monks protest today in Mandalay (AFP photo)
Daniel Wynn, Yangon, and John Zaw, Mandalay

December 12, 2012

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Hundreds of Buddhist monks held peaceful demonstrations across the country today, demanding a personal apology from President Thein Sein and his government over a violent crackdown on a copper mine protest.

Police used water cannon and tear gas to clear protesters and monks from a weeklong sit-in protest in Monywa town on November 29, which left dozens with severe burns.

It remains unclear whether the injuries were sustained from the weapons used or from fires that broke out within the protesters’ camps.

In Yangon, 600 monks chanted sutras and marched from Shwedagon pagoda, the largest Buddhist shrine in the country, to a park in front of City Hall.

An estimated 1,000 monks and 100 laypeople gathered in Mandalay holding placards urging justice for the injured monks injured.

Smaller protests were held in Monywa, Kalay, Pyay, Pekhutkhu and Sittwe, with security forces standing by.

“We are not pleased with the government’s explanations that it merely used water cannon and tear gas in the crackdown,” said Ashin Nanda, a monk and one of the leaders of the Yangon protest.

“How come our fellow monks got seriously injured with just tear gas?” he asked, adding that the protests would continue until a formal apology was made and those responsible for the violence were held accountable.

U Karwiya, a monk from Mandalay, expressed his sorrow over the violence during today’s protests.

“Let’s continue our protest peacefully to meet our demands, and I appreciate your collaboration and solidarity with the injured monks,” he said in an address to the protesters.

Unlike the so-called Saffron Revolution of 2007, during which a nationwide monk-led demonstration for democratic reform drew widespread public support, recent protests have met with a cautious response from some people who fear they may disrupt recent progress between the nominally civilian government and opposition groups.

“I support this protest which merely calls for a proper explanation from the president. But if they persist in a confrontational mode, we will be faced with negative consequences,” said Nay Myo Zin, a Yangon-based political activist.

Today’s protests ended peacefully in the afternoon, with no reports of interference by police or other security forces.

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