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Monks and villagers protest against Aung San Suu Kyi

Burmese activists say the opposition leader is selling them out to a Chinese mining company with a history of pollution and land grabs.
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Villagers shout slogans as they protest against Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi's stand on a Chinese-backed copper mine project. Suu Kyi urged protesters to accept a controversial Chinese-backed mine that was the scene of a violent crackdown last year, or risk hurting the economy. (Soe Than WIN/AFP/Getty Images)

Protests against democracy icon and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi have erupted outside a controversial Chinese-backed copper mine in Myanmar, where monks and villagers are accusing the government of selling them out for foreign money.

Suu Kyi has defended the $1 billion mining project, saying it should continue construction after a government commission (which she chaired) found that although the environmental impacts were negative and the mine wouldn't create local jobs, the prospect of losing future investment opportunities outweighed other concerns.

The report, released March 12, also acknowledged that the Letpadaung copper mine in northern Burma, jointly run by China and the Burmese army, had failed to "adequately compensate villagers for lost land," but offered suggestions on how to the project could live up to international standards in the future, in terms of the environment, redistributing farmland and dealing with protesters.

"[There are] suggestions in every sector. Law and rule of law and environmental, and also the social impact and creating job opportunity for the local people. And, to review some parts of the current agreement between the Myanmar and Chinese company," said Presidential spokesperson Ye Htut, reported Voice of America.

More from GlobalPost: Myanmar: protesters face off against Chinese mining interests

According the Guardian, locals had hoped that Suu Kyi's position as chair of the commission would result in the end of construction of the mine, and thus the mine would also cease the polluting and land seizures villagers say deeply affect their quality of life.

The mine was the site of angry protests in November of last year, which resulted in a violent police crackdown where over 100 people were injured after government forces razed a sit-in with batons and white phosphorus-laden smoke bombs, a harsh chemical agent that carries significant health risks. Many of the monks sustained serious burns.

Protesters again made their way to the mine yesterday, to show their dissatisfaction with Suu Kyi's apparent interest in finance over her people.

"The commission should think about the welfare of their own people – poor local villagers – rather than good relations with China," protest leader Thwe Thwe Win told the Associated Press.

Suu Kyi held a press conference near the mine Wednesday, encouraging the protests, according to a Global Voices report, and saw support online.

"Suu Kyi welcomed the protests and even reminded her detractors that everybody can protest against her under the law and even in front of her house in Yangon," wrote blogger Chan Myae Khine. "Suu Kyi was defended by many netizens especially on Facebook."

Protests continued today, although no violence has been reported.

For more on Chinese influence in Myanmar, check out our Special Report "Burma Road: China's Soft Power in a New Myanmar."
 

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatches/globalpost-blogs/rights/monks-and-villagers-protest-against-aung-san-suu-kyi

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