YANGON Nov 28 Police in Myanmar have arrested
six leaders of the latest protest against the planned expansion
of a Chinese-run copper mine, with opposition leader Aung San
Suu Kyi planning to visit the area to hear grievances.
In September, thousands of villagers near the Monywa mine in
northwest Myanmar protested against the $1 billion expansion
project, taking advantage of new, if fragile, freedoms granted
since the end of military rule last year.
The villagers say that under the project in the Sagaing
region more than 7,800 acres (3,160 hectares) of land have been
In the latest protest, activists led a demonstration in the
commercial capital, Yangon, on Monday to highlight the plight of
villagers and were arrested the next day, supporters said.
"They were taken to Insein Central Prison yesterday and
charged with creating public mischief. The hearing was adjourned
to December 3," activist Win Cho told Reuters on Wednesday.
The authorities are now moving to end the protest at the
In a statement read on state television late on Tuesday, the
Home Ministry said protesters at six camps at the site had to
leave by midnight so that a parliamentary commission could carry
out an investigation.
It said all project work had been halted since Nov. 18
because of those protests.
Activists and locals said some protesters were still at the
site in the early hours of Wednesday, past the deadline.
"So far as I know, there were some protesters there as of 4
a.m. this morning. I haven't been able to contact them ever
since," Myo Thant, a member of the 88 Generation Students Group
who had gone to Sagaing to monitor the situation, told Reuters.
A Buddhist monk from the region, who did not want to be
named, also told Reuters by phone that protesters had stayed on,
adding that the authorities had not moved in immediately to
clear them off.
Ohn Kyaing, a lawmaker from Suu Kyi's National League for
Democracy (NLD) party, said the Nobel Peace laureate intended to
visit the area on Thursday.
The NLD wanted an independent commission set up to
investigate the situation "and handle it with transparency", he
Local sources told Reuters in September that four of 26
villages at the project site had already been displaced, along
with monasteries and schools.
The copper mine is run by a unit of China North Industries
Corp, a leading Chinese weapons manufacturer, under a deal
signed in June 2010 after Canada's Ivanhoe Mines Ltd pulled out
It is backed by the military-owned Union of Myanmar Economic
Holdings Ltd (UMEHL).
Under the military regime that ruled Myanmar for almost half
a century until 2011, UMEHL operated with impunity.
Now, emboldened by reforms under President Thein Sein, who
took office in March 2011, villagers are pushing back and
testing the limits of newfound freedoms, including a relaxation
of laws on public protests.
(Reporting by Aung Hla Tun; Editing by Alan Raybould and