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Myanmar riot police descend on copper mine protesters

Demonstrators in northwest Myanmar faced water cannons and tear gas on Thursday while protesting a copper mine expansion that will displace villagers. Protests over land disputes have become more common with the country's liberalization.

By Aung Hla TunReuters / November 28, 2012

Protesters hold placards as they stage a rally outside the city hall in Yangon, Myanmar, against a copper mining project in central Myanmar Monday. Emboldened by Myanmar's changing political climate, farmers, villagers, factory workers, and others are now staging demonstrations in various parts of the country over issues ranging from land confiscation to electricity cuts.

Khin Maung Win/AP



Riot police fired water cannons and tear gas early on Thursday to disperse people protesting against the forced eviction of villagers in northwestern Myanmar to make way for a copper mine expansion, residents and activists said.

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Land disputes are a growing problem in Myanmar. Protests were suppressed quickly under the junta in place until last year but have become more common as President Thein Sein has opened up the country and pushed through reforms.

Truckloads of police arrived at camps set up near the Monywa mine in the Sagaing region to protest against the $1 billion expansion, which locals say has caused the unlawful confiscation of more than 7,800 acres of land.

"They started to disperse the crowd by using water cannon at Kyaw Ywa camp at about 2:55 a.m.," Shin Oattama, a Buddhist monk who had been helping the villagers, told Reuters by telephone.

"They then shot some sort of canisters that caused fire at the camp. We just don't know what sort of weapon it was." He said about 10 monks were injured and two of them were in a critical condition.

"We are now seeking refuge at a nearby village. There's no ambulance, no doctor to take care of the injured," he said.

Aung San Suu Kyi, Nobel Peace laureate and a member of parliament, planned to visit the protesters on Thursday to hear their grievances. Officials from her National League for Democracy (NLD) party said she flew out ofYangon early in the day.

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