Myanmar government apologizes to monks over injuries at mine protest

Reuters, YANGON, Myanmar

Sun, Dec 09, 2012 - Page 4

Myanmar’s government has apologized for injuries, including serious burns, suffered last month by monks and others when riot police cleared camps set up to protest against evictions caused by the expansion of a copper mine.

Burmese Minister of Religious Affairs Myint Maung made a formal apology to 29 senior monks and said police regretted the incident, state-owned television reported late on Friday.

Activists said at least 50 people had been injured when riot police moved in at the Monywa mine in the northwest region of Sagaing on Nov. 29. That included more than 20 Buddhist monks, some with burns blamed on incendiary devices thrown by police.

The mine is operated by the military-owned Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings, working with a unit of China North Industries, a Chinese weapons manufacturer.

Anger had grown at the heavy-handed police intervention, reminiscent of the way dissent was stifled under the junta that ruled Myanmar for 50 years until Burmese President Thein Sein’s quasi-civilian, reformist government took office in March last year.

As monks protested around the country, Thein Sein quickly asked opposition leader and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi to head an investigation into the incident and the copper mine project.

“The policemen who had to discharge their duties were extremely sorrowful that monks, some novices and other persons were wounded in the copper mining project incident,” Myint Maung told the monks, adding that the government would do its utmost to ensure such “undesirable incidents” did not happen again.

“It was found that the monks and novices carried no guilt, as they were young and had no knowledge of political tricks,” he said.

No mention was made of how the burns were caused. The authorities previously said police had used tear gas and water cannons.