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Asia-Pacific

Myanmar police apologise for mine crackdown

Government also forms commission to be headed by opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi to investigate police raid.
Last Modified: 02 Dec 2012 03:16
Aung San Suu Kyi will head a 30-member commission to assess whether the mine project should continue [AP]

Police in Myanmar have apologised to monks for cracking down on a protest at a Chinese-backed copper mine in country’s north, AFP news agency has reported.

About 100 police apologised to 10 monks on Saturday for the harsh police action against demonstrators in Monywa, a town near the controversial mine where the raid occurred on Thursday.

A senior police official said "we are sorry for what happened and apologise", according to an AFP reporter at the scene.

Also on Saturday, Myanmar's president's office said opposition leader and Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi will lead a probe into the crackdown, and will also assess the future of the contested project.

The 30-member 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, 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. 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, who visited the area on Friday, demanded an apology for the crackdown, after holding talks with both sides. But she 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.

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