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Locals protesting a controversial Chinese-backed copper mine in central Burma have filed a lawsuit against President Thein Sein for his role in a police crackdown in November, which left more than 100 peaceful activists injured.
Three local farmers, Win Win Htay and Yi Yi Win from Sete village and Zaw Naing of Mogyopyin village, filed the lawsuit at a courthouse in Salingyi township yesterday. They have all played a leading role in protesting the Latpadaung copper mining project in Burma’s Sagaing division.
The farmers’ legal representative Saw Kyaw Kyaw Min said the court’s judge Khin Khin Swe set the hearing date for 11 March.
“President Thein Sein is the one who is most responsible for the brutal crackdown on rally sites during peaceful protests demanding an end to the Latpadaung Copper Mining Project,” said Saw Kyaw Kyaw Min.
“We are filing a case for [legal] action against President Thein Sein for the brutal crackdown on the camps.”
Win Win Htay said the lawsuit will hopefully deter the government from assaulting demonstrators in the future.
“We really hope that something will come out of this and those behind the firebombing will be exposed – we see that filing a lawsuit will prevent such incidents from happening again and bring more protection to citizens’ [rights],” said Win Win Htay.
On 29 November, police forces launched a pre-dawn crackdown on protest camps near the mines, which left more than 100 people injured, most of whom were monks who suffered from serious burn injuries.
According to an independent investigation conducted by the Lawyers’ Network (Myanmar) and the US-based Justice Trust, authorities used white phosphorous to disperse the demonstrators – a charge the government has denied.
On 2 December, the government announced the formation of a committee led by Aung San Suu Kyi to investigate the crackdown; however, the group has yet to release their findings after missing three deadlines.
The assault on the demonstrators came after months of mass protests against the Latpadaung mine — a joint-venture between the military-owned Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings Ltd (UMEH) and the Chinese Wanbao company.
Activists claim the project has confiscated more than 7,800 acres from 26 villages.