Myanmar villagers protest mine – by Yadana Htun (Globe and Mail – March 14, 2013)

The Globe and Mail is Canada’s national newspaper with the second largest broadsheet circulation in the country. It has enormous influence on Canada’s political and business elite.

MONYWA, MYANMAR — The Associated Press – Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi met with rare public scorn Wednesday as she tried to justify an official report endorsing continued operation of a copper mine opposed by many local residents in northwestern Myanmar.

Ms. Suu Kyi travelled to Monywa township on Wednesday to talk with protesters about the report of a commission she led to investigate the Letpadaung mine’s operations and a police crackdown on a protest there last November that left scores of people badly injured.

The report, made public Tuesday, said honouring the mining contract with a Chinese joint venture outweighed villagers’ demands that mining operations be halted because of alleged social and environmental problems. It only mildly criticized police, despite the injuries caused to protesters, mostly Buddhist monks, by the use of incendiary smoke bombs.

More than 700 protesters shouted denunciations of the report as Ms. Suu Kyi’s motorcade passed between visits to four villages.

Raising their fists in the air, protesters yelled: “We don’t want the commission,” and “To stop the Letpadaung copper project is our duty,” shouting louder as Ms. Suu Kyi’s car came closer. Sandar, a protester from Alaltaw village, said the report neglected the troubles the mine caused local residents.

“We feel that Mother Suu doesn’t have sympathy for us. We are fighting for the truth,” she said, calling Ms. Suu Kyi by a term her supporters use.

“We are not clear whether she made this decision because she is afraid of the military company or because she doesn’t love us. We want her to know that we are not protesting out of idleness.”

Ms. Suu Kyi’s endorsement of the commission’s findings could erode some of the deep and wide support she has enjoyed for more than two decades as she spearheaded the democratic opposition to the repressive former military government. A nominally civilian elected government took power in 2011, and Ms. Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party contested by-elections last year, giving her a seat in parliament.

As her party has agreed to play by parliamentary rules – in effect endorsing the army-backed government’s reform efforts – there is an opening for more hard-core anti-military activists to win over a share of disaffected voters who prefer a quicker pace of change than allowed under the army-dictated constitution. The next general election is in 2015.

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