Woman fatally shot at Myanmar mine protest

YANGON, Myanmar (AP) — A woman was fatally shot Monday during
a crackdown on protesters at a controversial Chinese-backed copper
mine in northwestern Myanmar, activists and an opposition lawmaker said.

 Khin San Hlaing, a lawmaker from the National League for Democracy party,
said the confrontation at the Letpadaung copper-mine project occurred as
police and Chinese workers erected a fence on land that the villagers
claimed as theirs.

She said a woman in her 50s was fatally shot in the head, though it was not
clear whether she was shot by police or mining company security personnel.
Photos taken at the scene showed the dead woman bleeding from her head,
and a wounded man sitting up with blood coming from his thigh. Khin San
Hlaing said 12 people were wounded, with nine hospitalized, including two
in critical condition.

Government and company authorities could not be reached immediately for
comment. A receptionist who answered the phone at the Chinese company’s
head office in Beijing said that personnel who could comment on the incident
could not be reached because it was after working hours.

The massive project, a joint venture between a Myanmar military-controlled
attention two years ago when police forcefully dispersed protesters, injuring
more than 100 Buddhist monks. Many suffered severe burns from smoke
bombs that contained white phosphorus, a substance not generally used
to contain civil unrest.

The mine, near the trading hub town of Monywa, has been the scene of some
of the fiercest opposition to corporate land-grabbing in Myanmar since elected
President Thein Sein came to power in 2011. mine’s expansion and that the deal,
approved when Myanmar was still under military dictatorship, lacked transparency
. They worry that the mine is causing environmental, social and health problems.

Because of the outcry, work at the mine was temporarily halted. The mining
contract was renegotiated to ensure that millions of dollars go toward community
development projects and to pay compensation to villagers, allowing the
resumption of mining activities.

Although the company has paid compensation to some villagers, others refused
to take the money and insisted that they would hold on to their land.

In Monday’s incident, U Arlawka, an activist monk, said police killed the woman
when they started shooting to chase people away so that the company could put up a fence.

“The police started firing with their guns and the Chinese security beat up the
villagers on that land with axes and hammers, which injured a lot of farmers this afternoon,” he said.

Lawmaker Khin San Hlaing said she called government officials and police to get their
side of the story in order to judge the situation fairly, but had received no answers.

“It is very depressing that no government officials are answering my calls.
No one is taking responsibility,” she said.

___

Associated Press writer Didi Tang in Beijing contributed to this report.

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