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Published on Friday, 30 November 2012 21:04
On November 29, the full moon day of Tazaungmone—a holy and sacred day for the Buddhists—a violent and ugly event occurred as security police force cracked down on protestors at the camps in Lapadaung copper mine. Many prominent persons have called the incident unacceptable.
At 3am on that fateful morning, police used tear gas and water cannon in dispersing protesters. A witness recounted that the police used flammable devices including fire guns (chemical weapons) in dispersing the crowd.
Journalist U Win Tin: “The violent crackdown is totally unacceptable. It is entirely wrong. I think the matter should be resolved at the earliest. The crackdown is violent. I mean extremely violent. The use of tear gas is considered too forceful. In this event, it is undeniable that the police force used flammable bombs. Many monks and people were injured. One senior monk has been rushed to the Mandalay Hospital, and therefore, the matter should be considered as very grave. What we are worried is that such violence might push the entire people to take side with the protesters.”
Political commentator Dr Yan Myo Thein was of the view that the untoward incident might pull NLD chairperson Daw Aung San Suu Kyi into a mess and put strain over national reconciliation.
“The use of force on the protestors plunges Daw Suu Kyi into a very tight situation. It is not an appropriate solution and may hinder national reconciliation. Daw Suu Kyi is sure to face a dilemma at the area in question, losing sight in finding a solution. I am of the view that the violent crackdown may have negative impact on the national reconciliation,” Dr Yan Myo Thein said.
Latha Township MP U Kyi Myint of the Lower House condemned the violent crackdown at the copper mine camps and that the horrid and ugly episode should be salvaged to save face.
“I totally object to the whole incident. Their acts are contrary to democratic practices. It is proof that there are still dictatorial acts and behavior from the past or the old system. Those responsible for cracking down the protest should apologise. In my opinion, they should clarify the situation to the public until the people understand. They should explain that it is concerned with the economic dignity of the state. All the detainees must be released. It is necessary to save face as this issue is very awful,” said Kyi Myint.
Blogger Nay Phone Latt said authorities need to issue a statement regarding the severe clampdown on the demonstrations. He said they also need to take responsibility and explain the situation.
Environmentalist U Ohn, 80, said the act to crush the protests is inhumane and he will stand by the protestors.
“I feel very sorry. We will not give in. I will do my bit as much as I can. I wanted to have participated in the protests. But I couldn’t because of my age. I don’t mind if they shot me,” U Ohn noted.
Their act to break up the protest without any negotiation is a grave concern for the future of our nation, said Htay Kywe, a member of ‘88’ Student Generation Group.
The group wants no violence against the protesters. Jimmy, another member of the group said the government should have shown their patience at a time when Myanmar is in a period of transition and is still building trust with the people.
Retired professor Daw Hla Myint said that though public protests cause a difficulty for the government, it should not have taken the wrong step. He said the incident should serve as a lesson.
Than Lwin, a member of the National Advisory Board for Social and Economic Affairs and vice chairman of Kanbawza Bank, said the crackdown should not have taken place especially when international investors are eyeing businesses in the country. “It is necessary to review the fact that the implementation of national projects without transparency adversely affects regional and local interests,” he said.
Chief Editor Kyaw Min Swe of The Voice Weekly journal questioned why the riot police cracked down the protesters in the copper mine project area when they carefully handled Rakhine communal violence.
Director Zaw Htay of the President's Office told the Eleven Media Group that no chemical weapons were used in the crackdown.
Dozens were injured, most of them monks, during the incident. About 50 people have been admitted at the Monywa hospital for treatment. Most of those injured sustained burns. One injured monk, who is in a critical condition, was rushed to Mandalay General Hospital. The security forces raid left almost 100 injured. Unconfirmed reports said there were casualties.
"According to a report from our two reporters waiting to cover news and to witness the incident, the police squad cracked down on the protest camps more forcibly than required. The government troops launched battles with KIA to protect China's interests. Tens of thousands of government servicemen were dead and injured in the never-ending battle. KIA also lost lives and hundreds of thousands of local Kachin are facing trouble. We accept that the copper mine project should not be stopped. I want to give an advance warning that if Myitsone dam is to be built, we would become the slaves of China, that if Kyaukphyu-Kunming railroad project was implemented, the country would be in flame and shattered into pieces. As China's interest is heavily protected by the government, it is true that anti-Chinese feelings becomes embedded in people's conscience," Chairman and CEO Dr. Than Htut Aung of the Eleven Media Group said.
Other comments on the crackdown:
Hanthawady U Win Tin (renowned journalist)
"We denounce the government crackdown on the protesters. Now is the time to peacefully deal with the problems in the country. The government is handling the problems of national reconciliation and ethnic affairs in a peaceful way. At such a time, we don't totally accept the crackdown on the protesters. I think it is wrong. It is immediately necessary to deal with this problem. In general, the riot police use only tear gas in the major cities. It is undeniable that fire bombs were used in the raid, injuring most of the monks. One of the monks was rushed to Mandalay General Hospital. If the government is doing it this way, more people will take part in the protest. It was earlier arranged that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi will deliver a public speech in this area. If the crackdown is going on, then the people will join the protest and the second Myitson scenario is very much likely to occur.”
Dr. Yan Myo Wai (Political Commentator)
"It is not acceptable the way they handled it. It should be solved by meeting with both sides peacefully. Actually it should have been stopped to assess the project from all angles. Based on the assessment report, the discussion should be made between foreign investor, Myanmar partner and locals. After the report and discussion, the investors should decide whether the project should continue or not. This way is more appropriate in solving this problem. Using force to end the protests will bring more problems. This kind of action should not have been taken. I think EIA report is important. Even an investigation led by the government is not reliable. The investigation should point out what are the rights for victims. The rights should be in detail and agreed to by signing a foreign company, Myanmar partner and locals. Everything should be done by agreement. Using force could impact on an international level. On the other side, the trust of the international community will decline as well. The worse could be the loss of trust between the government, people and political organizations that are driving to change. This could put Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in a tight situation. This is not a good manner for reconciliation in long term while she is using the discussions method to solve the problems. She will be facing a hard time when she arrives in that area. So I conclude this as obstruction to national reconciliation.”
“I absolutely object to this matter. This kind of procedures is against the democratic norm. This shows the shadow of previous policies. First, government officials involved in the use of force should apologise. After that the company should explain until it is clear for the public to understand. The arrested people should be freed.”
Kyi Myint, MP (Latha)
“This is very dreadful and should be quickly resolved. Yesterday I answered some questions by Irrawaddy news agency about it. I made four points. Firstly the government should evade itself in this case. If so, this tension will reduce soon. I talked about that principle. Secondly they must show that the protesters are honest. We cannot say or point out they did it for the sake of their benefits only. They protested here tiresomely. [The government] should show its honesty by empathising with them as human beings. And then they should negotiate persuasively. Two previous mountains have already been mined for metals. This mountain is exploited in this era of democratisation. If the situation is like this, companies from the West will still not come to Myanmar. China has given the highest price for the project, far ahead of its rivals such as India and Singapore. When doing business, there are fines and compensations. Even if this project is handed over to a company from the West, it will not be able to give the combined amount of compensation to do this project. We should explain about it. Another point is that there is a theory called “Depletion Theory” in economics. If the project land became emptied when all the natural resources were taken out, the concerned company has to make an agreement to build a tourist resort there to seek regular income for the area after the project is completed. [The government] should allow the project with that kind of agreement before it is started. And it should publicise the fact that it is for the sake of the public. While we’re saying about those points, it’s too bad that the violent crackdown happened last night.”
Jimmy (88 Generation Students Group)
“Our policy is absolutely against any violent crackdown. During these reforms, we should avoid that kind of violent crackdown. We should care nowadays when the trust between the government and the public is under construction. The government should be patient as much as possible in dealing with public affairs. I can say that the public today is not in line with the law which is enacted at the parliament for the matter of protesting. It seemed that the public felt free to let out all their emotions during this democratic government. I see that they are not against the government deliberately; actually they relied on the government and the parliament. Actually they were presenting their issues to the government. It may be not in line with the law. I think the government has to be patient. Whether they dealt the solution with forceful ways, I am thinking about the crackdown and sad that we have that kind of situation. My heart is filled with sadness for my country.”
Tin Nyunt, Political commentator
“I heard and saw the explanation of Lieutenant General Wai Lwin for the Lapadaungtaung crackdown on TV. There has been no problem according to his statement. Besides I understand that (1) that project is in cooperation with the Chinese and did not want to break friendship with China; (2) the joint venture is for the benefits of the army and their families. Actually the benefits of army and the people are against each other in the parliament. We have to watch closely if the president will stand with the people or the army. I am depressed that they chose the use of forces on the protesters. We can’t accept that they are talking of democracy and on the other hand they still practice the military way. Moreover they knew that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is coming to the area on November 29 and the clash happened before she came. My view is that they have to wait until she dealt with the situation. They dealt the situation before she came because (1) they don’t believe her; (2) they are afraid of her dealing with the situation in peaceful ways; (3) they are worried that if she comfort the protesters and persuade them to go home, then the people will be on her side. The projects with China are not contracted in the new government era. Military leaders and China signed the agreement in the past. The president ordered to stop the Myitsone project and promised not to implement during his term. He transferred the case to next government. Besides the people just know the Lapadaungtaung case now. Maybe the people knew about that but they didn’t dare talk openly. I am sad that another minister commented we have to thank China. Actually they have mutual agreements and one is taking and one is giving. We haven’t heard the disagreement because they are cordial with each other. They did not frankly tell us about the agreements, treaties and bonds in the past. I think if the Lapadaungtaung case had transparency from the start, the problems won’t be that big. If the government is protecting the Chinese and suppress its people, they will hate not only the government but also the Chinese.”
Maung Moe Thu (Writer)
“This is their political trick. It is also a matter if it is safe to disclose it or not. Actually, their action takes a form of pre-emptive attack before Daw Aung San Suu Kyi came. This is my understanding on their trick. Generally, I don’t say much about political affairs. If I have to comment on this event, I may have to say politics. I don’t want to say much.”
Nay Phone Latt (Blogger)
“It is no longer acceptable to do anything they want as in the past. For this action, who take the responsibility? The responsible person must take his responsibility and solve the consequences. As in the military era, using violent attack whenever there is a strike can no longer be easily done now. They don’t seem to understand it yet. The responsible person must be accountable. He must explain why and be held responsible and accountable to those who are not satisfied with his explanation. The responsible person must return something in compensation.”
U Soe Nyunt (Chairman of Myanmar Birds and Nature Society)
“This is not the way to solve it in a democratic country. Everyone must have freedom of expression. I say it because this is the basis. The Union of Myanmar Economic Holding Ltd. is just a company. Why it should destroy the country’s resources with no valid reason and only for the sake of the company’s interest and that of foreigners. The people, the original owners of the land, demonstrated their opinion and the government staff, to whom the public feed, tortured them this way. This means not knowing the gratitude of the public. In other words, the government bit the feeding hand of the public. We must find out who ordered to shoot. The people are now at the hospital. Solving this way will never be acceptable. Actually, the main cause is the country’s 2008 constitution designed to protect the power in their hand. That constitution must be discarded and it should be replaced with the one that is drawn up by the parliament members, whom the public choose themselves.”
U Ohn (Vice Chairman of Forest Resource Environment Development Association)
“Solving this way is so horrible. They say they will make reforms transparently and now their actions betrayed their words. Since even the monks were hospitalized, it is really unacceptable. I am really sad. We will never give up. We will do what we can do. I am now 80. If not, I will go there and join the protestors. I don’t care if they shoot me or not. I dare to sacrifice my life.”
U Win Kyaing (General Secretary of Myanmar Fishery Federation)
“It will be another story if it attacked this way because the protestors were committing violent acts at their camps. Now the protestors are demonstrating peacefully, and such attacks are not necessary at all. On their attack, the victims’ skins were burned from chemical weapons. It goes beyond the limit. The action gives rise to the impression of bigger unrest. This will bring the undesirable situations to the country. They should not attack this way.”
Thet Oo (Ex-Political Prisoners Group)
“We feel terribly sorry for this. The forcible way is not a solution. The way they have used now is the same as those in the past. Negotiations are necessary. Public interest should be prioritised. Myanmar Economic Holdings Ltd has had lots of monopolies. I strongly criticise their act.”
Htay Kywe (88 Generation Students Group)
“I first thought the government would make negotiations and protect the interest of the citizens. But they resolved the issue in a forceful way. It is a great concern for the country’s future. I totally abhor their act.”
“I want to ask those who ordered to use fire bombs if they have a clear conscience. If they wanted to solve problems in a violent way, why did they strip off their military uniform. The people always want dialogue and negotiations. They staged a protest as they did not have the chance to negotiate. The public interests must be protected. We don’t accept the protection of interests of MEHL (Myanmar Economic Holdings Ltd) and the Chinese company.”
Kyaw Htwe (National League for Democracy)
“I totally object to such violence on any occasion or day. Negotiations are needed. Why does one side stage a protest? Why does the other side want to see no protests? Engagement is necessary. The public interest should be prioritized in a long term interest.”
Waing (Film director)
“Since action can be taken in accordance with the law, any violent crackdown should not have imposed. I am wondering if it would lead back to the country’s previous situation. I assume that should not have happened.”
Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi (Film Director)
“Letpantaung copper project is a scheme taken up by Chinese Wanbao Company and army-backed Myanmar Economic Holding Limited, and we are not aware when the agreement was signed. The project was carried out by people that have no idea and vision. Due to this project local people and the monks in the surrounding villages have been displaced. For this reason, the local people staged the sit-in protest. Six protest camps have been opened. The last couple of days, an announcement was released to disperse from the site. It gave reason that to carry out a national level investigation, the protesters must move away from the site. Only when Wanbao could resume the function can the investigation team start the probe. With that reason, the police force cracked down on the protestors. We received the news at 3am. The people and the monks were injured. Although they said that they used tear gas, the people suffered burns. The use of violence against the people for the wrong project is not a right solution. Using weapons against the people and the monks is not the correct method of a democratic government. It is a very sad episode and very much disturbing. I cannot imagine what kind of government is that. I have faith on this government from the very beginning. I and my family members did not participate in voting for the constitution in 2008. We did not vote in the 2010 general election. They claimed that they are legitimate government. If they govern the country in a democratic way, it is all right. As they mismanaged in running the state affairs, it is very much disturbing.”
U Than Lwin(Vice-Chairman of Kanbawza Bank and member of the National, Social and Economic Council)
“This copper project has been under implementation since the previous government. Now is the time of the democratic government, and it must have transparency. Clarification must be made whether the project is for the government, or the people or the Chinese. It is necessary to be reviewed. The local people, the government and the Chinese company should discuss and negotiate. Although agreement had been signed, it could be re-negotiated. The local people must be comforted. The government should not use force in resolving problem. I am very sad about this incident. There are many options. For instance, tax and compensation could be asked from the Chinese company on the damage of the environment. Assistance could be asked from the Chinese company for social development. After the violent incident, the government has to shoulder heavy responsibility. The government should not use violent method at a time when international investors watching. On the other hand, the people should not come out to the street for strike and demonstration. The main defect is lack of transparency. The project is to be reviewed for the benefit of the local people.”
Daw Hla Myint (Professor)
“In this matter, the actual victims are the local people. It should be reviewed for the benefit of the government, the Chinese company and the local people. The copper project is for whose benefit? Therefore, the government should reconsider the project. If they wish to go forward with the project, they will need to meet with the government, Chinese company and locals. The information of the project with details should be released to public. The project will succeed if the public know clearly what exactly is going on. The government should not have made a wrong step at this time. On the other hand, the public should not protest for any issue that could make a difficult situation for the government. For future projects, the government should have transparency and explain what the benefits are for locals.”
Kyaw Min Swe (Chief Editor of the Voice Weekly Journal)
“I absolutely object using force. I agree with Aung San Suu Kyi that protesting is not the way to solve any cases. I understand that breaking the MOUs can jeopardise the relation between two countries. It is not easy to break the agreement once signed. However, I do not want to say anything about agreeing or not agreeing for protesting or suspending the projects or not. I object to the use of force on peacefully protesting monks and locals. The international community has a system to calm the rioters down step by step. We do not have to tell what the steps are. The warning has been issued for two days from the government side. However, this could have not been at this early in the morning. To break the protesters, how much training have the police officers undertaken. Were they really police officers even wearing the police uniforms? There are so many questions to ask for us. Why would they do this kind of brutal violence? There are questions why the police force committed such a cruel act although they handled the Rakhine issue very well. The government should have an answer while people will ask this happened because the Republic of China is behind this. The main point I am saying is not about agreeing or not agreeing for protesting. Once again protesting is not the way to solve the problems. For people to accept this, the government should be willing to explain tolerantly. However, I object to the use of force on peaceful protesters.”