At least one villager was shot and several persons injured when police cracked down on locals in Se Tel village near the controversial Latpadaung copper mine in Myanmar’s Sagaing Region on Thursday.
About 100 local farmers and villagers had turned out for the third consecutive day to plough a neighbor’s land which had been confiscated by the authorities as part of an instruction to clear the way for the copper mine project to proceed.
Some 500 police moved in on the villagers on Thursday, citing Section 144 of the Penal Code.*
A stand-off ensued between the police and the 100 or so villagers, but it quickly escalated into heated exchanges.
Speaking to Mizzima shortly after the incident, Ko Htet of Yangon People’s Support Network, said, “On Wednesday morning, police arrested Ko Thu and Aung Soe of Yangon People’s Support Network and Thaung Htike from Tone Village. The police then intervened to stop the villagers who were ploughing the field and a violent confrontation ensued.”
He said that the police had previously arrived to disperse the villagers on three occasions but the locals had refused to leave the site.
When the clash broke out on Thursday, police used batons and rifle butts to push back the crowd, said Ko Htet. However, failing to do so, they began firing shots toward the villagers.
In the nearby village of Tone, police arrested Thaung Htike of Myanmar Students Union, alleging that he was involved in the ploughing protest. Again police clashed with locals in Tone.
A Sel Tel villager told Mizzima that he witnessed Ko Thu of Yangon People’s Support Network taking photographs of the incident before police confronted him and beat him with rifle butts. He was taken to Monywa Hospital, the villager said.
He said another villager, who was shot in the arm and the armpit, was also taken to Monywa Hospital.
In response to a question by Mizzima, a police officer at the Monywa Township Police Station said on Thursday evening that they knew nothing about the violence and that a police report was in the process of being compiled.
According to the same villager, when Aung San Suu Kyi, in her capacity as chair of the Latpadaung Inquiry Commission visited Monywa on March 23 she promised the owners of the confiscated lands that if they did not accept offers of compensation, then they would not lose their lands.
* The official translation of Chapter VIII (Offences against Public Tranquility) of Myanmar’s Penal Code, Section 144, reads: “Whoever, being armed with any deadly weapon, or with anything which used as a weapon of offence, is likely to cause death, is a member of an unlawful assembly, shall be punished with imprisonment of their description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both.”
But there is also a version of Section 144 that reads: “… [Whoever] is a member of an unlawful assembly, knowing it has been commanded to disperse, shall be punished with imprisonment, etc.”
For more background:
- Residents continue to protest over Latpadaung project
- Activists condemn Latpadaung report
- White phosphorous used on Latpadaung protesters, say lawyers
- Suu Kyi blocked by angry protesters at Latpadaung