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Burmese activist jailed for copper mine protest

Activist Naw Ohn Hla
Activist Naw Ohn Hla

Front Line Defenders

UPDATE from Mizzima News: Little change: Arrest of activist indicates speaking out against big business interests still taboo (13 September 2013)

Myanmar has jailed an activist for two years in connection with protests over a controversial mine project, her lawyer said on Friday 30 August 2013, despite the regime's pledge to free all political prisoners.

Naw Ohn Hla, 49, was convicted on 29 August for public order offences in the town of Monywa, where the Chinese-backed Letpadaung mine has triggered fierce opposition from local villagers.

The activist, who has been arrested a number of times in the past for her activities, was detained on 13 August after her request to stage a protest was denied, her lawyer Robert San Aung told AFP.

Rights campaigners have expressed concern at the continuing arrest of activists opposed to the mine in recent months, despite a pledge by reformist President Thein Sein to free all political detainees by the end of 2013.

A botched raid on a protest at the copper mine in November 2012 sparked an outpouring of anger after police used phosphorus against demonstrators, in the harshest crackdown since the end of military rule.

In July 2013, officials said the terms of the mine deal with Chinese firm Wanbao had been revised, in an apparent attempt to assuage public anger by giving the nation a share of the profits.

Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who is normally venerated around the country, was heckled by villagers earlier this year after she recommended that the mine be allowed to go ahead, despite concerns over its environmental impact and land-grabbing.

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