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More mine protesters arrested

Four face charges of illegal demonstration

More mine protesters arrested
Buddhist monks march in protest on Wednesday in Mandalay
Daniel Wynn, Yangon

December 14, 2012

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Police detained at least six people in Mandalay and a nearby city in upper Myanmar last night in an attempt to slow the momentum of a monk-led protest calling for justice and an apology from President Thein Sein following a crackdown on anti-mining activists.

Police this morning released two members of the All Burma Federation of Students Union (ABFSU) arrested in Myingyan township near Mandalay yesterday.

But four other members of the same group rejected bail, proclaiming their innocence rather than acknowledging the charges, said Ye Yint Kyaw, an ABFSU spokesman who attended the trial.

They remain in Mandalay prison facing charges of illegally demonstrating when they face trial on Thursday.

“All these arrests are the direct opposite of the new government’s slogans of listening to the public voice. This is against the political reform process in our country,” said Ye Yint Kyaw.

Although the Myanmar government has become increasingly tolerant of demonstrations, new laws state that all protests must be pre-approved by authorities.

Protests have occurred throughout the country in the past few days following a violent state crackdown last month which caused serious injuries to monks rallying against land-grabbing at a copper mine in Monywa operated by a Chinese consortium and the Myanmar military.

Last week, the minister of religious affairs formally apologized to a group of senior monks from the state-backed monk council and Thein Sein wrote a letter to the monks at the mine saying that he would protect and maintain a Buddhist temple at the mine site.

But protesters said he failed to express his regret over the violent crackdown in the letter.

“It shouldn’t be a big deal for the government to apologize to the injured monks in the crackdown if it really cares about the people and peace in the country,” said Ashin Sandardika, an influential Buddhist monk in Yangon.

Nyi Nyi Lwin, the former monk known as Gambira who led the Saffron Revolution and was this week released on bail in connection with opposition to the mine, said that protests will continue until the government brings to justice all those responsible for the crackdown.

In a clear sign it is trying to placate angry monks, state media announced today that a monk seriously injured in the crackdown was transferred to a hospital in Bangkok, Thailand and provided with a million Thai baht (US$32,600) for his medical expenses.

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