Freedom House Condemns Crackdown on Peaceful Protesters in Burma

Freedom House condemns the violent crackdown against peaceful protesters at the Letpadaung copper mining site in Sagaing Division, Burma and calls on the government of Burma to immediately halt its use of violence and arbitrary detention against peoples exercising their right to peacefully assemble.

At 3 a.m. this morning, riot police raided six protester camps at the Letpadaung copper mine, using water cannons, tear gas, and fire bombs to disperse protesters, including Buddhist monks and local villagers. According to reports, at least 80 people were injured, many with severe burns inflicted by the incendiaries used by the police. Many demonstrators have fled into the forest in fear of continued violence.

The violent crackdown marks a dramatic escalation of months-long intimidation aimed at disbanding the protests. Since February of this year, local villagers, Buddhist monks, land rights and environmental activists have been staging peaceful sit-in protests against land grabbing, forced evictions, and environmental degradation caused by the mining project, which is a joint venture between Chinese companies Wanbao Mining Ltd. and Yang Tze Copper Ltd., and Union of Myanmar Economic Holding Ltd., a company owned by the Burmese military.

Despite recent reforms, Burmese authorities continue to threaten and arrest those who speak out against continuing human rights abuses in the country. Even while the government of Burma is releasing political prisoners to curry favor internationally, at least 200 cases of arbitrary detention have been documented this year and the actual number of arrests is likely far higher. Such actions serve only to impede the reform process and hamper relations with many concern parties who, while encouraged by recent progress, remain deeply concerned about human rights issues in Burma.

Learn more:

Freedom in the World 2012: Burma

Freedom of the Press 2012: Burma

Freedom on the Net 2012: Burma

Countries at the Crossroads 2012: Burma

Blog: The Risks of Haste in Easing Burma’s Sanctions