Officers from the police force’s special intelligence department, commonly known as special branch, arrested and beat locals from a village near the controversial Latpaduang copper mine in Monywa district during a pre-dawn raid on a Buddhist monastery on Tuesday.
Arlawka, abbot of the Zeetaw village’s Chanmyaywadi monastery, said about two dozen special branch officials in civilian garb stormed the monastery around 2 am and used excessive force to detain four villagers who were in the process of preparing meals for monks ahead of the week’s Buddhist lent festivities.
According to the abbot, the special branch agents handcuffed and beat four locals: Maung Too, Tin Linn, Pho Kalar and Ye Htet Aung.
“The police officers told them to lay against floor and they handcuffed them before proceeding to kick them in the back of their heads and slapped and kicked them in the face,” said Arlawka.
But as police entered the monastery, locals sounded an alarm alerting their fellow villagers who then went on the attack against the officers, which allowed Pho Kalar and Ye Htet Aung to escape.
“Residents in the village started [triggering an alarm by] banging metal poles and setting off firecrackers and proceeded to chase after them,” said the abbot.
“Then the [police], as they were chased by the mob, fired about 10 shots. They made off with two of the villagers.”
The monk said the police likely raided the monastery in retaliation to the villagers’ stubborn refusal to relocate and make way for the nearby Latpaduang copper mine, which is reportedly responsible for the confiscation of about 7,800 acres of farmland and displacement of farmers from 66 villages.
“They were here to arrest us knowing that this village is not well-protected and they wanted to crack down on us for resisting relocation and force us to give in,” said Arlawka.
“Those people are not rebels – they are peasants and there were no charges against them. Everyone is worried for their safety because they might get beaten up in detention.”
Last November, Burmese police made international headlines following a raid on protestors camped out near the mine in Monywa. During the pre-dawn assault, riot police dispersed the demonstrators with water cannons and incendiary devices, which left more than 100 protestors with serious burns.
According to an independent investigation carried out by the Lawyers’ Network (Myanmar) and the US-based Justice Trust, Burmese riot police used incendiary devices containing white phosphorous to disperse the protestors.
-Additional reporting contributed by Aye Nai