Two Burmese Buddhist monks, who were amongst the victims of fire bombings and a suspected white phosphorous attack at the hands of police at a controversial copper mine in 2012, have announced their intention to sue the authorities. The announcement was made by the monks and the Justice Trust NGO on Monday.
“We are suing the government, not out of grudge or for personal gains, but because we want justice,” said a monk named Withoda at a news conference in Rangoon, according to the Associated Press, who called on the Burmese government to make amends with local land-grab victims, and to apologise for the use of the dangerous chemicals.
The Latpaduang copper mine has been the site of frequent protest and occasional bouts of violence. The severity of the situation peaked on 29 November 2012, when police attacked monks and other peaceful protestors near to the mine, jointly run by the military-owned Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings and China’s Myanmar Wanbao near to Monywa, in Sagaing Division. The use of white phosphorous in military combat is illegal under international law.
Following the incident, an unofficial investigation led by the Lawyers’ Network (Myanmar) and the US-based Justice Trust, found scientific evidence of the use of the chemical agent, which inflicted second and third-degree burns on over 100 monks and villagers protesting the expansion of the Latpadaung copper mine in Monywa. It also cited numerous eyewitness accounts and photographic evidence.
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.
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. A local woman named Khin Win was shot dead while protesting on 22 December 2014.