'Chemical weapons used' in copper mine protest
Despite govt denials, witnesses confirm that flammable weapons were used to disperse protesters
Witnesses confirmed that police used flammable chemical weapons in dispersing protesters during last week's clashes over a Chinese-run copper mine project in northwest Myanmar.
This was disclosed at a press conference held by environmental, law, human rights and chemistry experts on Monday. A government spokesperson earlier denied the use of chemical weapons to break up the crowd in Lapadaungtaung on November 28.
Chemistry expert Khin Maung Nyo said firebombs were used during the crackdown. He urged the government to disclose the kind of weapons used and their source.
"Myanmar is a country with plenty of natural resources [but] this condition is causing danger to Myanmar people because of avaricious persons," said Soe Nyunt, chairman of MBNS, adding that the military should not be a "business organisation".
Protesters are alleging massive land grabbing under the military rule, leading to the displacement of farmers to make way for the project.
Soe Nyunt also said the 2008 Constitution has led to "mismanagements" in the government. He called for amendments to a charter that was exploited by "a dictator to protect their properties for many years".
The conference was attended by chairman of the Forest Resource Environment Development and Conservation Association, chairman of Myanmar Birds and Nature Society, a consultant of Business and Law, the co-founder of Human Rights Defenders and Promoters network, chemistry experts, members of the 88 Generation Students Group and members of Ex-political Prisoners Group.
Meanwhile, opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi of the National League for Democracy party held private talks with President Office Minister Aung Min and members of the of '88 Generation Students Group on last week's crackdown at the copper mine.
During the talks, the group - represented by Min Ko Naing, Ko Ko Gyi, Mya Aye and Htay Kywe - declined to be part of the investigation commission formed by the government to look into the crackdown.
"We discussed the issues on the Lapadaungtaung project with Suu Kyi. She fully understood our decision not to join the commission as members. Although we can't join the commission, we strongly support the commission chaired by Su Kyi," Htay Kywe said.
Aung Min urged the group once more to join the commission but Htay Kywe said that the minister understood their decision.
About 100 Buddhist monks and civilians were injured after riot police forcibly broke up the protest.
President Thein Sein has directed the formation of an investigation commission with Aung San Suu Kyi as chairperson and Min Ko Naing and Ko Ko Gyi as members.