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Protesters seek apology for crackdown

Warn that demonstrations will continue over copper mine project

Protesters in Yangon demand an apology from President Thein Sein over a crackdown that left dozens of monks injured Protesters in Yangon demand an apology from President Thein Sein over a crackdown that left dozens of monks injured
  • Daniel Wynn, Yangon
  • Myanmar
  • December 7, 2012
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Small groups of protesters gathered yesterday across the country to demand a state apology for the violent crackdown last week that left dozens of monks with severe burns and other injuries.

Police used water cannon, tear gas to clear out villagers and monks in Monywa town on November 29 who had staged a weeklong sit-in over a controversial copper mine project in northwestern Myanmar. It is not clear whether the monks were burned by the actual weapons or by fires in the protest camps ignited by them.

“We urge the government to provide medical healthcare for the monks injured in the crackdown,” said Khin Nay Min, who led a small protest at Sule pagoda in central Yangon. “We also call for the cancellation of this copper project.”

The protest lasted only about 30 minutes before attendees fled the seen fearing arrest by plainclothes police in the crowd.

Authorities have already arrested about 10 protesters over earlier protests against the mine and the crackdown last week.

A second protest in Tamwe township later in the day drew about 30 protesters who wore handkerchiefs over their faces and held posters depicting photos of severely injured monks.

Outrage over the crackdown triggered similar protests in Taunggyi in Shan state and in Mandalay, where 200 Buddhist monks gathered in a pagoda platform demanding a formal apology from President Thein Sein.

Meanwhile, the government has formed a commission led by opposition parliamentarian Aung San Suu Kyi to assess whether the copper mine, a joint venture between a Myanmar military-owned company and a Chinese state enterprise, should continue.

In a press conference yesterday, Suu Kyi warned that the commission might not be able to provide an answer that would please all concerned parties. She said the commission would carry out its duty with the long-term interests of the country and its people in mind.

U Sobita, a monk from Mandalay, said the protests would continue despite the commission’s work.

“Before we get the answer from the commission, we will continue to stage protests calling for a state-level apology for the crackdown,” he said.

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