Latpadaung killing: Police slammed for conduct

Latpadaung killing: Police slammed for conduct

The Myanmar National Human Rights Commission (MNHRC) has insisted that local Salingyi police investigate the December shooting of Latpadaung protestor Khin Win, saying her killing breached international rights standards.

In a statement on Thursday, the government-appointed body recommended that action be taken against those responsible for the manslaughter of villager Khin Win, who along with 200 other local protestors had confronted riot police on 22 December. The police had been brought in to protect workers from the Myanmar Wanbao mining company as they erect fences around plots of disputed land to be used for the copper mine project.

In its recommendations, the MNHRC also called for action to be taken against those police force personnel responsible for protecting the workers, some of whom were allegedly Chinese citizens, while they erected the fence, and who were injured in the resulting melee.

“Actions should be taken against responsible persons from the team who failed to take necessary security measures [during the] erecting [of the] fence at the Letpadaungtaung [Latpadaung] project,” the statement said, as reported in state media on Thursday.

The MNHRC called for those who did not “strictly follow instructions” during the incident to be held to account. It also said that the correct crowd control equipment had not been issued to security forces.

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Police have maintained that villagers attacked them on 22 December with missiles fired from slingshots. Villagers contend that police responded in kind, before firing on the crowd with live ammunition. A similar confrontation the following day was broken up and dispersed by police using rubber bullets.

In addition to the death of Khin Win, more than 20 other villagers were injured in the two days of standoff at the site.

The MNHRC also reserved criticism for the protestors themselves, accusing them of “violent’ or ‘terrorising” conduct.

Hundreds of local villagers and their supporters have been protesting the Latpadaung copper mine since its inception more than 10 years ago. Many have been displaced to make way for the project, which was originally contracted to a Canadian firm, Ivanhoe Mines.

The controversial mine was temporarily suspended when activists and Buddhist monks staged a mass sit-in protest in 2012. The protest was broken up brutally by riot police on 29 November that year when some 80 protestors were injured, including several monks, many with horrific burns that experts have attributed to white phosphorous.

A subsequent investigation headed by opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi failed to pronounce anyone guilty for the violent crackdown, and to many villagers’ dismay, recommended to the government that the project be resumed.

Since Khin Win’s killing, Suu Kyi has blamed the violence on the Latpadaung Working Committee, accusing it of failing to implement the suggestions of her investigative commission.

Tin Myint, secretary of the committee, rejected Suu Kyi’s remarks and told reporters on 8 January that his committee is seriously evaluating and implementing the suggestions of the commission.

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