12 Mar 2013

Burma confirms phosphorus used in crackdown on mine protesters

An official report has confirmed that police in Burma used smoke bombs that contained phosphorus during a crackdown on anti-mine protesters last year that left 108 people with burns. The report also recommended the controversial Chinese-backed project continue.

The report by an investigation commission appointed by President Thein Sein and chaired by the opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, was released on Monday, more than three months after the incident at the Letpadaung copper mine in north-western Burma. It was the biggest use of force against protesters in Burma since Thein Sein's reformist government took office in March 2011.

burma monk after mine protest

Protesters say the joint-venture between China's Wanbao mining company and a Burma military conglomerate causes environmental, social and health problems. They want it halted and are demanding punishment for those who hurt peaceful protesters. The findings are likely to disappoint opponents of the project and could reignite demonstrations.

Authorities had said they used water cannon, teargas and smoke grenades to break up the 11-day occupation of the mine last November, but protesters said burns were caused by incendiary devices. They described "fire balls" being shot at them during the night-time raid on their encampment. A separate, independent report released last month by a lawyers' network and an international human rights group said police dispersed the protesters by using white phosphorous, an incendiary agent generally used in war to create smoke screens.

The Guardian