First Posted: 4/25/2013
(AP) Police in northwestern Myanmar injured seven people and arrested three others Thursday in a new crackdown on residents opposed to a controversial Chinese-backed copper mine project, activists said.
They said the violence broke out near the Letpadaung mine as farmers plowed their land, which was seized for the project.
Farmers had returned to their fields in Hsede village on Tuesday and around 100 riot police and 50 soldiers tried to drive them away on Thursday, environmental activist Tha Gyi said.
Another activist, Han Win Aung, said police shot one farmer in the arm and beat six others as scuffles broke out. He said police also arrested two villagers and one activist.
Local authorities could not immediately be reached for comment. State television reported the skirmish, saying police used rubber bullets to disperse 200 farmers. The report said 15 police were also injured.
The Letpadaung mine drew international attention in November when police dispersed protesters with smoke bombs containing white phosphorous. The bombs caused severe burns to protesters mostly Buddhists monks who had occupied the site for days.
Residents opposed to the project say it will cause major environmental, social and health problems. Those seeking to stop the project also say the $997 million deal, signed in May 2010, lacked transparency because it did not undergo parliamentary scrutiny under the previous military regime, which ceded power to a quasi-civilian government led by retired generals two years ago.
The mine project is a joint venture between a military-controlled conglomerate and a Chinese mining company.
A report last month by a government investigation commission chaired by opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi recommended that the copper mine project should continue, but called on the companies to give compensation to the farmers. Suu Kyi visited the region and was heavily criticized by local villagers who had hoped she would defend them.Associated Press