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Suu Kyi to lead probe into China-backed Myanmar mine
by Staff Writers
Monywa, Myanmar (AFP) Dec 1, 2012


Myanmar police 'apologise' for violent raid on mine rally
Monywa, Myanmar (AFP) Dec 1, 2012 - Police apologised for injuring scores of monks in a crackdown on a protest at a Chinese-backed copper mine in northern Myanmar, an AFP reporter said Saturday, but tensions over the pre-dawn raid remained high.

About 100 police apologised to 10 monks in Monywa, a town near the controversial mine where the raid occurred on Thursday, the toughest police action against demonstrators since a new reform-minded government took power last year.

A senior police official said "we are sorry for what happened and apologise", according to an AFP reporter at the scene, although it was unclear if the monks accepted the apology for a raid which left 100 injured, many with severe burns.

Activists are calling for work at the mine -- a joint venture between Chinese firm Wanbao and military-owned Myanmar Economic Holdings -- to be suspended to allow impact studies amid allegations of mass evictions and pollution.

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi visited the area and on Friday demanded an apology for monks hurt in the crackdown, after holding talks with both sides.

But the veteran dissident struck a conciliatory tone towards China and declined to back calls for an immediate halt to work on the mine.

It was unclear exactly what caused the protesters' burns but President Thein Sein's office denied local media allegations that some kind of chemical weapon was used, while state media said tear gas and smoke bombs had been deployed.

Photographs of the injuries have stirred outcry across Myanmar reminding the public of the brutal junta-era security force tactics.

With many monks still being treated in hospital Aye Net, a protest leader in Monywa, said she could not forgive the police despite the apology, telling AFP "I will never forget the scenes of their crackdown".

Protesters allege mass evictions have taken place to make way for the mine while China insists that the contentious points had already been resolved.

In a renewed sign of growing anti-China sentiment around 50 people marched to the Chinese Embassy in Yangon on Saturday.

The mine demonstration echoes fierce opposition to a Chinese-backed mega-dam which saw Thein Sein order the scheme's suspension last year in response to public anger.

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi will lead a probe into a crackdown on a protest against a Chinese-backed copper mine which will also assess the future of the contested project, the president's office said on Saturday.

The 30-strong non-parliamentary commission will investigate the "social and environmental issues" behind the protests -- which include allegations of mass evictions to make way for the mine.

The Nobel laureate has sought to mediate an end to the stand-off at the mine in Monywa, northern Myanmar, which saw scores of villagers and monks injured in the toughest clampdown on demonstrators since President Thein Sein's reform-minded government came to power last year.

Photographs of the protesters' injuries, which included severe burns, have stirred outcry across Myanmar, reminding the public of the brutal junta-era security tactics and the probe appears to recognise the depth of those concerns.

The commission will "investigate the truth" of the pre-dawn raid by riot police and assess whether the "copper mining project is being implemented in accord with international norms", a statement on the presidential office website, signed by Thein Sein, said late on Saturday.

It will also advise whether "to continue the copper mining project and whether to stop foreign investment", the statement said, without providing further details.

Activists are calling for work at the mine -- a joint venture between Chinese firm Wanbao and military-owned Myanmar Economic Holdings -- to be suspended to allow impact studies amid allegations of mass evictions and pollution.

China insists that the contentious points had already been resolved, but the dispute echoes fierce opposition to a Chinese-backed mega-dam which saw Thein Sein order the scheme's suspension last year in response to public anger.

Suu Kyi visited the area and on Friday demanded an apology for monks hurt in the crackdown, after holding talks with both sides.

But the veteran dissident struck a conciliatory tone towards China and declined to back calls for an immediate halt to work on the mine.

In a renewed sign of growing anti-China sentiment around 50 people marched to the Chinese Embassy in Yangon on Saturday.

The presidential office statement followed an apology by police for injuring monks in their crackdown on protest camps on Thursday, an AFP reporter said Saturday, but tensions over the pre-dawn raid remained high.

A senior police official among around 100 officers told a group of 10 monks that "we are sorry for what happened and apologise", according to the AFP reporter at the scene, although it was unclear if the monks accepted the apology.

With many monks still being treated in hospital, Aye Net, a protest leader in Monywa, said anger was still raw towards the police despite the apology, telling AFP "I will never forget the scenes of their crackdown".

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