Burmese Buddhist Monks Lead Nationwide Protests Against Chinese Copper Mines
Dear BPFers! If, like me, one of your intentions for the new year is to brush up on political news in historically Buddhist parts of the world, The Buddhist Channel is a wonderfully helpful resource for current events: a broad collection of Buddhist cultural and political news from all across the world. Recently I was intrigued by this article, culled from The Global Post, about monastic-led protests in Burma opposing Chinese-owned copper mines as environmentally destructive and possibly imperialist. (The phrase “scared of compromising Chinese interest in Myanmar” certainly sends up those red flags of imperialism for me!)
Demonstrators led by Buddhist monks have staged hundreds of rallies throughout the country, with protests also held in the major cities of Yangon and Mandalay.
Local residents have long expressed concern over the environmental and health impact of the project, with many claiming that the mine’s operation has left well water unfit for consumption and led to an increase in birth defects.
The extensive land grabs entailed by the project also inflamed local sentiment. Eurasia Review reports that 7,800 acres of farmland in the area have been confiscated and farmers from 66 villages forcibly relocated.
The development of the Letpadaung copper mine has seen the excavation of ore-rich mountains in the area, as well as the construction of a sulfuric acid factory near local communities and the dumping of contaminated waste soil from copper processing.
The mine is a joint venture between China’s Wangbao and the military-controlled Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings.
Following the staging of twenty-four hour protests by both monks and local villagers at the end of November, the government said explicitly to demonstrators that it was scared of compromising Chinese interests in Myanmar. Authorities then imposed a harsh crackdown on protests using water cannons and incendiary devices, leaving dozens of people injured.
The photo above shows the aftermath of the police crackdowns. Check out more news on the protests, as well as other news on The Buddhist Channel, and feel free to share your musings with the rest of us!