Monday, July 24, 2017

Myanmar makes apology to monks over copper mine crackdown

Minister for the President’s Office U Hla Tun apologises to monks at a ceremony on December 15. (Phyo Wai Kyaw/The Myanmar Times)Minister for the President’s Office U Hla Tun apologises to monks at a ceremony on December 15. (Phyo Wai Kyaw/The Myanmar Times)

The government has formally apologised to monks for a police raid on a Letpadaung protest camp last month that left up to 100 people injured.

The apology comes after monks staged a series of protests in major cities, demanding an apology and action on other Letpadaung-related issues.

Minister for the President’s Office U Hla Htun and Minister for Health Dr Pe Thet Khin led the government delegation at the ceremony, held on Saturday, December 15 at Atumashi Monastery in Mandalay’s Aung Myay Thar San township.

Monks from Monywa, Mandalay and Amarapura attended to the ceremony, including some who were injured in the November 29 attack.

Addressing the issue of the controversial mine project, U Hla Tun told the monks that cooperation and discussion were the best way to reach a mutually beneficial solution.

“An Investigation Commission has been formed and is working to work out the best way forward on the Letpadaung mine conflict,” the minister said.

While most monks welcomed the apology, U Oattama from Maha Gandayone Monastery said he still wanted the government to meet the monks’ four other demands but would wait until the Investigation Commission has finished its work.

He said one reason the monks had accepted the government’s apology is because they did not want to threaten the reform process.

“Becuase they have apologised to us, the protests will stop and then we will watch the Investigation Commission’s decision,” he said.

“We asked for five demands and told the government to respond no later than December 12. Before that, they agreed on the first demand – to apologise to the injured monks. We will continue to ask them to meet the other demands. But we also need to wait and see what comes from Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s Investigation Commission in regards to our demands, such as to take action against those responsible for the raid,” he said on Tuesday, December 15.

He said that monks will also continue to push the government to release those arrested for taking part in anti-Letpadaung protests.

“They released some of them but they had to sign a pledge [not to protest again] and so are not totally free.”

Meanwhile, a letter from Ashin Thazana, who sustained serious injuries in the raid and is at Mandalay Central Hospital, was read at the ceremony. In the letter, he questioned why the head of hospital did not allow him and three other seriously injured monks to be transferred to Yangon or abroad for treatment.

U Hla Tun promised to look into the issue and transfer the monks to a hospital in Yangon if necessary.