Continued controversy around Burmese miningPublished by MAC on 2013-02-04
Source: Washington Post, Irrawaddy, DVB, statement
Previous article on MAC: Burma: More arrests as the old regime betrays its democratic mandate
Copper mine controversy tests Burma's leaders
Voice of America
1 February 2013
Bangkok - Burma is overdue to release a report on a controversial copper mine backed by the military and China but facing strong opposition. Rights activists say the investigation into the mine is a test of the new government and of democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who was appointed head of the commission looking into the copper deal.
Aung San Suu Kyi visits Buddhists monks wounded in police crackdown on protests against a copper mine project, Nov. 2012.
The commission appointed by Burma's president to examine the Letpadaung copper mine was due to release its findings by January 31.
But the date came and went without a report or immediate explanation on how the investigation into the central Burma project was proceeding.
Burma's largest copper mine is run by a Chinese company in cooperation with the Burmese military-owned Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings Company Limited (UMEHL).
Their plan for a $1 billion expansion came up against protests from local villagers who say they were unfairly compensated and are worried about the environmental impact.
Late last year, a months-long demonstration was violently dispersed by police.
Thein Than Oo, head of the Legal Committee at the Burma Lawyer's Network, says they uncovered evidence the police fired canisters of white phosphorus, a powerful incendiary, to break up the protest.
"They want to warn the whole entire people that don't touch...M-E-H-L. This is a matter of business. It is untouchable. And, second, is to intimidate people," he said.
Thein Than Oo says they want to know who ordered the police action, as some suspect members of the military may be involved.
Despite the controversy over the crackdown, it is unclear if Aung San Suu Kyi's commission even has a mandate to investigate it.
David Mathieson, an Asia researcher with Human Rights Watch, says this investigation is new territory for Burma's civilian-led government.
"The protest and the crackdown on the protest, and all the other issues around Letpadaung and the copper mine, they're serious enough as it is. But, this is also a very important test case in how the authorities handle peaceful protests and land rights issues and how the authorities deal with it. So, I think it has great symbolic importance," he said.
The copper mine deal between the Chinese company and Burma's military was struck during military rule and is criticized for a lack of transparency.
Aung San Suu Kyi has already weighed in on the dispute, saying that although the rights of villagers need to be protected, Burma also needs to honor its agreements with foreign companies.
Mathieson says the commission's report is also a test case of Aung San Suu Kyi as a politician.
"As someone not just has to be involved in investigating a very serious incident but in actually bringing along different members of the political kaleidoscope with her. So, I think we're really going to see how effective she is as a political leader through this exercise," he said.
NLD spokesman Nyan Win says when the report is finally released it should indicate how Aung San Suu Kyi handles the competing pressures.
"We should wait and see [the] final report, what pressure, and what she can do for the benefit of the Letpadaung area people," said Nyan Win.
Meanwhile, Burmese media reports this week indicate protests have continued near the mine. China's ambassador to Burma also weighed in on the issue this week in meetings with the minister of mines.
A statement by China's Embassy says the ambassador expressed hope that Burma would earnestly protect China's business interests and help resolve any outstanding problems.
Mining Ministry drops defamation case against The Voice
Agence France Presse
1 February 2013
A defamation case by Myanmar's mining ministry against The Voice Weekly for reporting graft allegations was dropped Thursday, in the latest sign of easing pressure on the nation's long-muzzled media.
A Yangon court agreed to withdraw charges against The Voice at the ministry's request, following mediation by a recently-formed press council, according to Judge Khin Thant Zin.
In an article last year The Voice reported a corruption probe linking the ministry to a Chinese co-owned copper mine, which has seen a series of protests over allegations of land-grabbing and environmental damage.
Under the country's Printing Act 1962, both individuals and organizations can sue publications for defamation, in a nation where for decades the judiciary acted as a tool of the junta and is still seen as lacking independence.
Kyaw Min Swe, The Voice's chief editor, welcomed the withdrawal as a "win-win" for both parties but vowed to continue "to speak out and write what we have to".
He also warned "it was not good to have a government ministry and a media organisation in such a dispute" as Myanmar's widely-praised reforms take root.
The new government that replaced the military regime in 2011 has introduced wide reforms, including the welcoming of Aung San Suu Kyi and her party into mainstream politics and efforts to unsh ackle the media.
In August the regime announced the end of pre-publication censorship, previously applied to everything from newspapers to song lyrics and even fairy tales.
The country set up the interim press council to draft a new media law and has also announced it will allow private newspapers to publish daily from April 1, ending a decades-old ban.
In response to the "dramatic changes", Myanmar rose to 151st out of 179 in the 2013 World Press Freedom Index, an improvement of 18 places, the Paris-based media watchdog Reporters Without Borders said on Wednesday.
Land-grabbing endures in new Burma
The Washington Post
31 January 2012
Last February, a local government agent approached village headman U Thein with an offer: $600 to "lease" a large tract of communal rice paddies that needed to be cleared for an army-owned company and its Chinese partner to expand a copper mine in this sun-baked swath of northern Burma.
When Thein, 54, refused, he was arrested and thrown in jail. In his absence, bulldozers showed up in the pre-dawn hours with armed guards who threatened violence if anyone emerged from their homes. After years of a mutual testing of wills, both Israel and Iran get another opportunity with Wednesday's airstrike.
Thein figures that the annual loss of income from the seizure is about $66,000 and, nearly one year later, says his village has yet to be compensated.
"The money is temporary; the loss of land is permanent, for generations to come," he said.
Land-grabbing, a scourge of rural communities during the dark years of military dictatorship, endures in the new Burma. While sanctions are over and Western leaders have encouraged investment in the former pariah state, a heap of cases suggests that well-connected business interests are systemically taking advantage of the poor and uneducated to position themselves for big profits.
Burmese officials contend that some acquisitions are necessary to increase productivity and entice foreign investors ready to enter one of the world's last virgin markets. Critics argue that heavy-handed seizures have intensified, testing the new reform-minded government and its leverage over a military with long-standing ties to China.
"Burma's least-advantaged citizens are still getting steamrolled across the country, losing their land to powerful elites and their international partners, and facing abuses when they stand up to exercise their human rights," said Matthew Smith, a Burma expert with Human Rights Watch. "The same government that is getting praise internationally is sometimes violently pushing aside communities who happen to live on top of valuable resources."
While the dominance of the former military regime is no longer, two new land laws passed last year have faced heavy criticism for the broad power they allow the government to seize land in the national interest. The Asian Human Rights Commission told the United Nations that Burma was at risk of a "land-grabbing epidemic" if the laws are not amended.
Familiar methods deployed
Reports of land confiscation now stretch from the remote southern coast and northern border areas linked by oil and gas pipelines, to urban centers in the heart of the country where smaller industrial projects are usurping fertile agricultural lands.
In Letpadaung, a copper-rich area west of Mandalay, four of 26 villages have been razed and communities have lost more than 7,800 acres to the mining project. Some residents were moved to government-built resettlement camps; others say they were duped into taking money for short-term use, only to learn that they had forfeited their land entirely.
Out of habit, no one dared speak out. But amid a gathering tide of reforms, student organizer Ye Yint Kyaw, 27, said he became convinced in April that the "moment was right to take a chance" and rally angry residents against the project, a joint venture between the Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings (UMEH) and China's Wanbao Co.
The protest initiative, he explained, was fueled in part by President Thein Sein's order in September 2011 to suspend construction on the $3.6 billion Myitsone dam, another Burmese military-Chinese venture, in the face of public pressure over its social and environmental impact.
A peaceful protest camp began to swell outside the gate of the Chinese company's compound. Then, on Nov. 29, familiar methods were deployed: in a midday crackdown by local authorities, hundreds of protesters were attacked by truncheon-wielding police who beat and arrested anyone in their path. Tear gas bombs left dozens of monks hospitalized.
In the aftermath of the violence, condemnation by the U.S. State Department, area monasteries and rights groups yielded an apology from the government as fresh protests ensued in major cities. An independent commission led by Aung San Suu Kyi was tasked with making recommendations on the future of the project by the end of January.
A spokesman for the UMEH and Burmese government officials declined to comment until the commission's findings are released.
China, for its part, is determined not to see a repeat of Myitsone, calling any halt to the Letpadaung project a "lose-lose situation" in an editorial that ran in the Global Times, a Chinese government tabloid. It added: "Only third parties, including some Western forces, will be glad to see this result."
A red warning sign
For now, the digging goes on. On a recent afternoon, company guards looked on as Chinese workers in jumpsuits and conical hats cleaned up the broken protest camp, flanked by fenced-off concrete barracks and mechanical equipment. A red warning sign reminded everyone that martial law was in
A once-verdant farmland turned moonscape stands as a testament to what will become of Letpadaung if the expansion is completed. Itinerant workers mined the barren earth for handfuls of what copper dust remains.
In the nearby village of Kankone, longtime residents alleged that mining chemicals from an acid factory relocated to the edge of their community have poisoned drinking water and remaining crops, causing a surge in health problems. Several children living a stone's throw from the factory suffer from blindness and birth defects.
Although no scientific test results have been made public, a sense of fear persists. "We are scared to have more children; this land is not pure anymore," said Aung Soe, 40, a peanut farmer.
At a shaded monastery farther along the road that runs past the mine, about 30 farmers took part in a free workshop on land rights by a dapper Mandalay-based lawyer, Mying Thain. Privately, he was cynical about the fate of Letpadaung, noting the extent of Chinese political pressure after the Myitsone debacle and remarking that the commission led by Suu Kyi, in the end, has no legal authority.
"The law here still favors military-run businesses and their cronies, full stop," he said. Until judicial reform and the rule of law are seriously addressed, he added, "there will be no guarantees for farmers."
Most of his audience had been informed of a pending takeover of their land but had yet to be evicted. What should we do in the meantime? asked one man.
"Keep farming," said Mying Thain, with a defiant smile.
Others simply no longer have a choice. Kywak Ni, 60, a lifelong wheat farmer, was transferred with his family last year to one of four resettlement camps around Letpadaung. His eyes bloodshot from drink, he grumbled that his roof leaked and his vegetable patch was too small.
During the meeting, a truck full of men in plastic helmets suddenly pulled up to pick up his son, now a security guard for the Chinese mining company that helped get him evicted.
"What choice do we have now?" Kywak Ni said. "Refusal was out of the question."
Motlagh reported with a grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.
Use of Phosphorus in Protest Raid Outrages Activist, Victims
By Lawi Weng
31 January 2013
RANGOON - An independent investigation into a raid that injured dozens of protesters who opposed a copper mine in northwest Burma in November, found that police shot canisters containing white phosphorus into the crowd.
The highly-flammable chemical is often used for military purposes to illuminate areas or to create smoke.
"Our team went to Bangkok after collecting materials from the crackdown and laboratory tests found phosphorus on it," said Thein Than Oo, the head of the legal committee of the Upper Burma Lawyers Network.
He was reluctant to discuss the findings in detail, saying that the group would bring out a report after a parliamentary commission headed by opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi completes its findings on the incident and the mining project.
"We want to see the result from Letpaduang commission first. At that time, we can say what we have found and from their side, we can know what they have found and whether they have laboratory tests," Thein Than Oo said. He added that the group had sent their results to Suu Kyi.
Her commission was due to release its findings on the Letpadaung mine by Dec. 31, but no results have been released. It also remains unclear if it is only investigating the project, or if the crackdown is also in the commission's purview.
The news of the test results was first reported on Wednesday night by The New York Times, which gained access to the evidence and said it appeared to be a military-use smoke grenade.
A security expert who had seen the canister told The Times that such devices emit burning particles in a radius of about 50 meters.
Ye Htut, a spokesperson from the President's Office, said he had no immediate reaction to the findings. "It may interfere if I give comment about this result before the investigation team from Daw Aung San Suu Kyi reports," he said.
Ko Ko Gyi, an activist leader of the 88 Generation Students group, said the findings were shocking and showed that government leaders should get to the very bottom of what happened at the Letpadaung crackdown.
"It is not difficult to investigate for the government and find out who are who doing this and why, and find out the type of weapons they used," he said.
"In order not to let it happen again in the future, they (the government) should take action and punish those people who give orders to do this," Ko Ko Gyi said.
The canister was retrieved from the scene of the crackdown near the Letpadaung copper mine in Sagaing Division on Nov. 29.
Almost 100 people were injured there when riot police reportedly used tear gas, water cannons and incendiary devices in a bid to close a protest camp located outside of the copper mining company.
The company is a joint venture of China's Wan Bao Company and Burma's military-owned Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings Limited.
Most of the injured were monks who sustained severe burns. Several suffered third-degree burns over most of their bodies and are being treated in Thailand.
U Zavana, a senior Buddhist monk who was among the victims, said in a reaction to the news that the government should prosecute those who gave the order to use the smoke grenades.
"The government has responsibility to find the people and punish who ordered this," he said, adding that the police's actions cast doubt on the government's promise that it was changing from its old repressive ways.
"We cannot say at all that we can trust in this political change because if we look they brutally cracked down on us and used bombs when our actions affected their properties," the monk said.
"We were acting with metta [loving kindness] and we never expected that we could be burn like this," he said.
"My novices or young monks were wounded; I am taking care of them as I am worried that they will have a depression."
Thet Swe Aye from The Irrawaddy contributed to this article.
Burma learns how to protest - against Chinese investors
By Lucy Ash
24 January 2013
Monywa - Burma's steps towards democracy have made it possible for people to protest publicly, for the first time in decades, against things they don't like - and Chinese businesses have turned out to be top of their list.
Standing at the bottom of the vast open mine, I am a tiny matchstick figure.
My colleagues are standing hundreds of feet above but they can't hear my shouts or even see my face.
From their perspective, the giant dumper trucks snaking their way to the bottom of the pit look like children's toys.
This is one of the world's top 10 copper deposits, expected to generate tens of billions of dollars over the next 30 years.
According to its Chinese co-owners, the metal extracted here, in the north-west Sagaing Region, is of the purest quality and much sought-after globally.
Most is destined for Japan, Malaysia and the Middle East, but Geng Yi, the young managing director from Beijing, believes Burma itself will soon be an important customer.
Although five decades of military rule have turned Burma - or Myanmar as the generals named it - into the poorest nation in the region, it has ambitions to become a "golden bridge" between the mega-economies of India and China.
To achieve this goal, cash from abroad is urgently needed.
"To be frank, we don't have much capital to implement our economic reforms," says Koko Hlaing, the government's chief political adviser.
"Capitalism cannot be implemented without capital."
The copper mine, is a joint venture between China's Wanbao company - a subsidiary of the arms manufacturer, Norinco - and the deeply unpopular business arm of the Burmese military, which has lucrative stakes in everything from banking to beer, as well as a monopoly on the gems sector.
Its close connection to the men in khaki has also given it preferential contracts with foreign firms, such as this one clinched in 2011, before the nominally civilian government came to power.
But in the new Burma such deals are under public scrutiny.
The country recently held democratic elections, ended censorship and released hundreds of political prisoners. Now many are questioning authority for the first time in their lives.
Two cousins, whose faces are now famous across Burma, have become figureheads for opposition to a $1bn scheme to expand the mine, which will affect 8,000 acres (3,000 hectares) of farmland and 26 villages near the town of Monywa.
The farmers' daughters, dubbed the Iron Ladies by a local poet, have led thousands of villagers, monks, environmental campaigners and other activists in protest, against what they say is the unlawful seizure of their land.
The women come from the village of Wet Hmay (which means Sleepy Pig in Burmese). Along with dozens of other households, they are refusing to move from their homes into a brand new village of identical, neatly spaced houses with corrugated metal roofs.
The younger cousin, Thwe Thwe Win has a round face, a husky voice and a manner as pungent as the garlic she sells in the market.
"We want the mine closed down immediately," she says. "No-one should colonise our land."
In their fields, which lie in the shadow of a towering waste dump, I meet her cousin Aye Net, who complains that her sesame and beans are much sparser since the mine expansion started.
"When it rains, water drains through the dump and on to our land. There's something acid in it," she says.
"We don't want compensation. We just want to grow our crops and live here as we have for generations."
Environmental campaigners and activists from the pro-democracy youth group Generation Wave joined the villagers' protest.
Some locals have complained that the sulphuric acid used to leach copper from ore has contaminated drinking water although the Wanbao Company denies this.
U Wi Tatatema, a 21-year-old monk from the central city of Mandalay, says he read about the mining project in the newspapers and came to give his support.
"When I saw the village women sitting on the ground and singing the national anthem in protest, I cried," he says.
"The mountains are as precious as our parents - so I felt as if they were slaughtering my own mother."
Plans to relocate a sacred pagoda which was once home to a famous Buddhist teacher, helped to mobilise hundreds more of his fellow monks.
IMAGE The pagoda is inside the construction site of the new expanded mine on Letpadaung Mountain
Along with other protesters, they occupied the hillside temple, in the heart of the mining complex, for several days.
Since they were forcibly evicted, it has been guarded night and day by police.
- China has nearly $14bn of interests in Burma - one third of all foreign investment in the country
- About $13bn of that has been invested since 2008
- Most investments are in hydro-electric power, oil and gas, mining, jade and teak
- Critics say a $2.5bn project for twin oil and gas pipelines from the Bay of Bengal to western China will provide China with cheap energy while Rangoon continues to suffer power cuts
- In 2011 Burma halted a hydropower project, the Myitsone dam on the Irrawaddy river, which would have created a reservoir bigger than Singapore
Geng Yi, the mine's director, admits the protests made him feel "uncomfortable and unsafe" and he is still clearly frustrated by all the delays holding up the expansion plan.
"Without the rule of law and stability how can this country attract or protect foreign investments?" he asks.
"From our point of view, we would like the government and important people to pay attention."
When the government finally reacted, the confrontation turned ugly.
On 28 November, riot police cleared the protest camps which had brought the mine to a standstill.
Nearly 100 villagers and monks were injured. Many suffered horrific burns caused by incendiary devices - possibly phosphorous shells.
The brutal crackdown was a stark reminder that the country's transition to democracy is still in its infancy.
Many suspect the government acted to avoid angering China - the country's powerful northern neighbour and biggest investor.
President Thein Sein's popularity shot up last year after he suspended the $3.6bn Myitsone hydro-electric dam on the Irrawaddy river - another controversial Chinese mega-project - but perhaps he was warned not to make the same mistake twice.
Whatever the case, latent Sinophobia has recently exploded.
At a demonstration outside the Chinese Embassy in Rangoon one banner said "This is our Country - Dracula China Get out!"
Kyaw Min Swe, editor of The Voice newspaper, said many Burmese bitterly resent Beijing for its cosy relationship with the former military junta and are now determined China's unchallenged dominance should end.
"The old regime got everything it needed from China - legitimacy, weapons and political support, like a veto in the UN Security Council and people had to put up with this for so many years.
"Now they are channelling all their anger with China into opposing this copper mine," he says.
Six activists from the demo outside the embassy have been charged with holding a protest without permission. If found guilty they could face fines and two years in prison.
A parliamentary investigation into whether the mine expansion should be allowed to go ahead - chaired by opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi - is likely to condemn the police for their heavy handed response, when it reports in the next few days.
But the investigation is a poisoned chalice for the Nobel laureate.
It is unclear how far she will risk antagonising either China or the Burmese top brass - outside the halls of the new parliament the military still wields formidable power.
Immediately after the crackdown, at a rally in the nearby town of Monywa, Aung San Suu Kyi got cheers for denouncing police brutality, but she also stressed the importance of friendly ties with neighbouring countries.
As the icon of Burmese democracy her role was clearly defined - she struggled for freedom against one of the world's most oppressive regimes.
But now that she is an elected politician, she has to deal with Iron Ladies as well as army generals.
Latpadaung activists sentenced, released in Mandalay
Democractic Voice of Burma
18 January 2013
Four activists in Mandalay, who were arrested and charged for protesting against the police's brutal crackdown on rally sites at Latpadaung Copper Mining Project, have been sentenced to one month's imprisonment, but were able to walk free today.
The activists were charged under the Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Law for protesting without a permit, but were free to go after the court hearing today after spending 33 days behind bars following their arrest on December 13.
The activists, three of whom were members of the All-Burma Federation of Student Unions (ABFSU), were arrested after joining monk-led protests where they called on government officials to apologise for the excessive use of force during the violent police-lead assault on rally sites at the Latpadaung Copper Mining Project in Sagaing Division last November.
Burma: Drop Charges Against Peaceful Protesters
End Protest Denials; Amend Law on Assembly for International Standards
Human Rights Watch
13 January 2013
(Bangkok) - Authorities in Burma should drop charges against activists who participated in peaceful protests against government policies, Human Rights Watch said today. Nine peace activists now face criminal charges for demonstrating in Rangoon without a permit on September 21, 2012, International Peace Day. Anti-mining protesters and land rights activists elsewhere in Burma have also been subject to intimidation and prosecution.
"The government's prosecution of peaceful demonstrators reveals troubling limits on Burma's respect for basic rights," said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch. "Burma's leaders may be saying the right things at global forums and in bilateral talks, but their reform rhetoric rings hollow on the streets and in the fields where protesters assemble."
The Burmese government should promptly amend the 2011 Law Relating to Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession to conform with international human rights standards, including eliminating prison terms for permit violations, Human Rights Watch said.
Since September, the authorities have denied protest applications on spurious grounds in Rangoon and Monywa, violently cracked down on anti-mining protests near Monywa in Salingyi Township, Sagaing Division, and used the peaceful assembly law to prosecute rather than protect those exercising their basic rights, Human Rights Watch said. More recently, police refused to issue a permit for an assembly scheduled to take place on January 10 in Myitkina, the capital of Kachin state, to mark the 65th anniversary of Kachin State Day.
Thirteen activists who participated with over 1,000 others in a September 21 march in Rangoon calling for peace in Burma's war-torn Kachin State have been repeatedly summoned to local police stations and courts on charges they violated section 18 of the Peaceful Assembly Law, which requires a permit for demonstrations. Two of the accused told Human Rights Watch that since September they have had to appear at more than 30 court hearings in multiple Rangoon townships.
"It's been two and half months and we have visited the courts more than 30 times already," said one activist. "There are costs involved, like transportation, but the delaying of our day to-day lives and work impacts us more than money. There is a lot of stress and tension. I have to balance my work, the court schedules, and my family life, and it is very difficult."
The activists face up to one year in prison in each of the 10 townships through which the peace march passed. On October 24, the Dagon Township court rejected the activists' request that charges in various courts be consolidated and heard in only one court. They are now awaiting a decision on the same request from two district courts. The refusal by prosecutors to consolidate the case into one court proceeding, sparing the defendants from making multiple trips to various courts over an extended period of time, constitutes harassment and undermines the right of defendants to adequately defend themselves.
The government has also used excessive force against protesters. Early on November 29, 2012, at Letpaudaung in Salingyi Township, Sagaing Division, government security forces forcibly dispersed six camps of protesters, including Buddhist monks, opposing the expansion of the controversial Monywa copper mine. Several protesters were arrested, and at least 40 were injured, including many with serious burns. The authorities also arrested anti-mining protesters in Rangoon: six were arrested in Rangoon on November 26, some of whom were charged with sedition, inciting unrest, and disturbing the peace; two others were arrested on December 2 protesting the November 29 crackdown.
On December 15, Minister Hla Tun from the president's office publicly apologized for the authorities' actions on November 29. President Thein Sein also appointed a commission to investigate the mine expansion but failed to provide it with a mandate to investigate unnecessary use of force by the police. No one has been disciplined or charged for the violence against the protesters, and the charges against the Rangoon protesters still stand.
"A government apology and an investigative commission for the burning of the anti-mining protesters' camps is a good start, but it will mean nothing without results," said Robertson. "Foreign governments and corporations should insist on full accountability and legal reforms to ensure such incidents don't happen again."
Human Rights Watch said the Peaceful Assembly Law has been used in other cases to quash peaceful protest. On October 8 the authorities arrested several workers gathered outside the Taw Win furniture factory in Rangoon to call for improved working conditions. Seven have been charged with violating article 18 for demonstrating without a permit. Similar arrests happened to six factory-level union leaders who gathered outside a government labor office to protest working conditions at the Myu and Su garment factory in Rangoon.
The Peaceful Assembly Law was signed by Thein Sein on December 2, 2011, amid fanfare and praise from several Western governments. While the law ostensibly accepts the right to peaceful assembly, its provisions make it a criminal offense to give speeches that contain "false information," say anything that could hurt the state, or do anything that "causes fear," a disturbance, or blocks roads, vehicles, or pedestrians. Convictions can result in sentences of up to two years and a 50,000 Kyat [$60] fine.
International human rights law, as reflected in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, protects the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. Any legal restrictions on basic freedoms should be clearly and narrowly identified, strictly necessary, and proportionate. Burma's Peaceful Assembly Law makes the right to freedom of assembly subject to vague and overbroad restrictions at the full discretion of the authorities, and some violations call for disproportionate sentences under the law, Human Rights Watch said.
"The Burmese government evidently needs a mental reset to recognize that peaceful protests make for a vibrant democracy," said Robertson. "Burma should have laws that encourage peaceful assembly and authorities who understand and respect it."
Burmese mining federation wants to tap into ASEAN
Khin Myo Thwe
10 January 2013
A Myanmar Federation of Mining will be founded on January 15 in a bid to qualify for the ASEAN Federation of Mining Association.
"Mining enterprises, mining refineries, traders, companies related to mining businesses, and expert associations will be involved in this federation," said committee member Soe Moe.
He said that a chairman, a vice-chairman, a general-secretary, a secretary, chief executive officers and executive officers would be elected in Naypyitaw to represent the Federation.
"To be eligible, candidates for the mining association must: be from within the mining business field; have worked overseas; or have experience in running an association," he said.
Soe Moe said the purpose of establishing the association will be to cooperate with international organizations, to import modernized machinery, to attend to entrepreneurs, and to share knowledge and experience.
"Investors from ASEAN countries, as well as Western and EU countries, can come to the Association and discuss business," he said.
There are currently some 200 mining and mineral producing businesses in Burma, officially known as Myanmar.
The 2nd Myanmar Mining Summit will be hosted by the Ministry of Mines and will be held at the Sedona Hotel in Rangoon on January 21-24. Organizers say this summit is the official platform for anyone to assess investment opportunities and development plans in Burma's mining and mineral resources sectors.