RANGOON/MONYWA DISTRICT—Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi was confronted by hundreds of angry protesters on Thursday morning as she attempted to explain the controversial findings of a parliamentary inquiry into the Letpadaung copper mine project.
Suu Kyi was on her way to Ton village, near the project site in northwestern Burma, to explain the findings of the investigation commission, which she chaired, when her motorcade was surrounded by around 500 protesters.
The protesters are angry with the findings of her commission, which stated the mine project should go ahead despite environmental concerns and widespread local opposition. The inquiry also failed to hold anyone responsible for a violent crackdown, which injured more than 100 protestors on Nov. 29.
Anger was further fuelled on Wednesday after she gave speeches in three nearby villages calling on locals to stop opposing the project and accept compensation for land lost to the project.
Suu Kyi, who was accompanied by a full police escort, was forced to deliver her speech while surrounded by the protesters.
“Nothing is more important than our people,” she said. “I am responsible for the good of you. Even though the Letpadaung Mountain will be gone, we can still create a good and pleasant environment for you.”
But locals expressed their disbelief at the results of the commission and are demanding the complete shutdown of the project.
“The commission findings are against the local people’s will. That’s why we are staging our protest,” said Thaung Htike, of the People’s Support Service, an activist group.
The copper mine project on the Letpadaung Mountain is a joint venture between the military-owned Myanmar Economic Holdings and Wanbao, a subsidiary of China’s state-owned arms manufacturer Norinco.
The company confiscated 7,800 acres (3,156 hectares) of land in 2010. Farmers began a protest against the project a year later, which quickly gained support among rights and environmental groups, and the general public.
Suu Kyi spent nearly three hours with the protesters in Ton village attempting to explain the commission’s findings, but her words mostly fell on deaf ears, with locals repeatedly shouting: “We reject the Commission’s results. We won’t accept them at all.”
She then headed to another nearby village, Se Te, and her motorcade was again blocked by locals, who eventually let Suu Kyi into their village. Other commission members who were travelling with her were not welcome.
According to her one of her bodyguards, the opposition leader was very upset about the reaction from the crowd and he said she would continue to address the concerns of the locals until they were satisfied.