‘AAPP Burma’ Condemns Government Crackdown On Anti-Copper Mine Peaceful Protesters – OpEd
By Zin Linn
Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma) strongly condemns the use of excessive force and brutally crackdown on peaceful protestors by riot police in the early hours of 29 November, 2012.
Numerous protesters including several Buddhist monks have been hurt as riot police used tear-gas, inflammable bombs and water cannon this morning at the Chinese Wanbao Company holding Lapadaungtaung copper mine project near Monywa in Upper Burma.
Local people and monks who took part in the protest have forced out of three boycott-camps out of six campsites situated in the neighborhood of the copper mine project following the riot police forced entry.
The brutal raid on protesters’ camps occurred hours before opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s designed trip to Monywa, a busiess town in Upper Burma, where she was likely to address to the local supporters.
According to AAPP-B, during the protests at the Letpadaung copper mine, the police in Burma are responsible for inflicting widespread human rights abuses including arbitrary arrests, illegal detentions, and inhumane treatment that span from water cannons, tear gas, and fire hoses to unleashing “fire bombs” into the crowd, as said by witnesses who joined the protest. The resulting crackdown recalls the grave crimes committed against non-violent demonstrators during the 2007 Saffron Revolution.
In addition, the police shot into the air, and used batons and fire hoses against protestors. As a result of the police’s brutal attacks, three protest encampments were burned to the ground and at least 6 encampments were raided. Authorities also restricted the demonstrators’ movement and access to the protest site by blocking off the Monywa-Bassein highway.
The association says in its statement that within a few hours after the crackdown the toll of injured person is high and is expected to increase. It says that at present, 22 monks with severe burns are now hospitalized in Monywa Public Hospital, with two of the sufferers awaiting surgical treatment. A further two male protestors are considered emergency cases.
A seriously wounded monk, U Thaikkha Nyana, from Than-Ne-Taw Monastery, Monywa district, was sent to Mandalay Public Hospital to seek specialist treatment. Six monks from Phaung-Kar monastery are suffering from extreme wounds. Hundreds of protestors have been injured, with many facing burns throughout their body, the association said.
The association also brings to light about arbitrary arrests concerning anti-copper mine protests. Six are now imprisoned in Insein prison under section 505 (b) of the penal code, for “making a rumor conducive to public mischief.” Several monks and other peaceful demonstrators were also arrested in the wake of the violence, AAPP said.
Eight demonstrators in Yangon were charged on Tuesday with defaming the state after they joined a gathering of about 50 people calling for a halt to the Monywa project and urging Chinese joint owner Wanbao to quit the country, according to Agence France-Presse.
The mine, located in Sagaing Division’s Sarlingyi Township, is being accused of widespread land confiscations and environmental degradation, including mountain top elimination. The Lapadaungtaung copper mine project is jointly run by the government-owned Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings Limited (UMEHL) and China’s Wenbao Company.
Due to taking part in the anti-copper mine at Letpadaung, six women were also arrested and subjected to physical abuse on 10 September 2012. The women, who were supporting local farmers’ protest against the mine, had their hair pulled, arms twisted, and were pushed to the ground. One was taken to an unknown location in a truck.
Impunity for violent police officers is hugely deep-rooted. Not one police officer in Burma has faced prosecution for committing human rights abuses against civilians, AAPP criticized.
“No one should be abused, especially by police officers and other law enforcement authorities entrusted with protecting the public. All police officers responsible for injuring, burning, or torturing protestors must be prosecuted and punished immediately if the government of Burma is serious about preventing these grave abuses from reoccurring,” said Tate Naing, Secretary of AAPP.
AAPP emphasizes seriously in its statement: “An investigation into police brutality during the Letpadaung copper mine protests should include whether police used “fire bombs” against protestors. The majority of those injured are burn victims with some needing emergency surgery due to the degree and scope of the burns. Usage of any form of incendiary device or bomb is an extreme form of crowd control that is explicitly prohibited against civilians during times of war under the Geneva Convention. There is a strong suspicion that chemical warfare is being used against the unarmed protestors, and if allegations of “fire bombs” are found to be true, then the government of Burma is in direct violation of international law and must be treated accordingly.”
The association also made the following demands:
– Immediately release all those unlawfully detained in conjunction with the Letpadaung copper mine protests, with a wiping of their criminal records.
– Independently and transparently investigate the widespread and serious allegations of police brutality, in particular the use of “fire bombs” against unarmed civilians. Police authorities responsible for the violence must be prosecuted and punished.
– All of the hurt victims in this appalling incident must be financially compensated immediately in a comprehensive manner.