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Two arrests in ongoing mine protests

Anger over monks injured in last week's brutal crackdown continues

Two arrests in ongoing mine protests
Myanmar police arrest Aung Soe on Sunday during a protest in Yangon (AFP)
Daniel Wynn, Yangon

December 3, 2012

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At least two people were arrested yesterday during protests in Yangon against a police crackdown last week in which at least 20 monks were seriously burned.

The monks were protesting a controversial copper mine project in Monywa town in northwestern Myanmar, and images of the injuries have sparked outrage and reminded the public of brutal junta-era security tactics.

A number of protests have been taking place around the country.  

A police officer at the scene yesterday shouted that he had official warrants to arrest the two protesters, identified as Moe Thwe and Aung Soe, but did not show the warrants or explain why they were issued.

“They were forcibly taken away before our eyes. We were helpless. We were merely trying to show sympathy for the monks injured in the crackdown,” said another protestor Wai Hmu Thwin.

According to authorities, the weekend protests were illegal since the organizers did not apply for a permit.

In the meantime, President Thein Sein has formed a commission headed by opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi to investigate both the controversial project and the police crackdown.

Suu Kyi's 30-strong non-parliamentary commission will probe the "social and environmental issues" behind the mine protests and submit a report to Thein Sein, which could even recommend its closure, by the end of December, state media said Sunday.

But some are skeptical about whether the commission will be able to resolve this crisis in the new democracy, since the copper mining venture is jointly owned by the army and a Chinese company.

“Establishing the commission is just aimed at assuaging public anger about the crackdown,” said Monywa resident Zaw Phone Myint.

In a possibly related development, U Gambira, a Buddhist monk who played a leading role in the nationwide anti-government protests in 2007, was arrested two days ago even though he was not involved with the latest protests.

His mother said her son, who has already left the monkhood to receive medical treatment for his health problems, was taken away to Insein prison and she was not clear why he was arrested. 

Additional reporting by AFP

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