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Yangon (AFP) Nov 20, 2012
Hundreds of Myanmar villagers, students and monks have joined protests at a Chinese co-owned copper mine which they allege has forced people off their land and polluted the area, activists said Tuesday.
In a protest unthinkable just last year when junta rule was replaced by a quasi-civilian government, locals at Monywa in the northern district of Sagaing set up camps near the mine.
It is the second major protest at the mine following rallies over the summer which saw demonstrators arrested.
"About 1,000 people including monks protested near the Chinese project yesterday. About 400 people including monks are now (Tuesday) protesting nearby the project site," Aung Hmine San, a senior member of the All Burma Federation of Student Unions, told AFP by telephone.
"We didn't ask for any permission to protest as the local authorities didn't allow us in the past. The monks are also protesting together with villagers here," he added.
Protesters demand the company stops work until it releases environmental and social impact studies.
During a September protest activists said some 8,000 acres (3,200 hectares) of land had been confiscated from local farmers without consultation and in some cases without compensation.
The copper mine, a joint venture between military-owned Myanmar Economic Holdings and China's Wanbao company, has been the subject of controversy for months after local media allegations of corruption over the project.
Myanmar's mining ministry is suing the Voice weekly newspaper over its report.
The company could not be reached for comment on the latest protest on Tuesday.
President Thein Sein's reformist government earlier this year approved a bill allowing authorised peaceful protests. Demonstrators must seek permission five days in advance.
Last year the Myanmar leader ordered the suspension of a Chinese-backed mega-dam in response to a wave of public anger.
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