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New clashes and arrests at Myanmar's largest copper mine

Police hold back demonstrators as tensions re-resurface

John Zaw, Mandalay

April 26, 2013

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Protests at the controversial Monywa copper mine near Mandalay escalated again on Friday as around 1,000 demonstrators were blocked by police. This comes after Thursday's violent clashes which led to 10 injuries and three arrests.

Villagers want to establish ownesrhip of some fields which they claim were seized by the mining company, a partnership between Chinese-run Wanbao and the Myanmar military. They ploughed some of the fields on Thursday and tried to reach them again on Friday but were held back by 300 policemen.

“Police violently cracked down on the farmers yesterday and they haven’t released the three arrested yet – that’s why we’re protesting,” said Ko Latt, a farmer involved in the clashes.

State media said on Friday that five police officers were injured with protestors reportedly throwing “home-made fire bombs against police.”

In response, police fired rubber bullets, said the New Light of Myanmar.

Monk Ashin Nandasaya, a witness at the scene of yesterday’s violent clashes, denied that petrol bombs had been used. Witnesses said that more than 20 villagers were injured during Thursday’s violence.

Aung Than Myo, a farmer, said that protests would continue.

“Police violently cracked down on the villagers while they ploughed their own land … we will fight for our lands as they are the legacy of our ancestors,” he said.

This week’s clashes mark another escalation in a standoff between protesters and the authorities which has continued on and off at the mine site since last year.

Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi was appointed head of a panel to investigate claims of violence against civilians but was heavily criticized last month after recommending that Chinese firm Wanbao and the Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings, a commercial subsidiary of the military, should be allowed to continue operating the copper mine, the largest in Myanmar.

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