MNHRC releases report on Letpadaungtaung conflict

A new report released by the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission (MNHRC) on January 14 cites the failure of police to abide by regulations on the use of riot gear as the cause of the death and injuries sustained by protesters at the Letpadungtaung copper mine site last month.

Protesters clashed with police and Chinese security agents at the project site on December 22 as police and workers from the Myanmar Wanbao Mining Copper Co (MWMCCL) tried to erect a fence on land that local farmers say was seized from them.

One protester, a woman in her fifties names Khin Win from Moegyopyin village, was shot dead by the police.

The MNHRC formed an investigation commission to investigate the death of Khin Win and other injuries sustained by villagers and security officials during the clashes. From December 30, 2014, to January 2, 2015, the commission in went to Monyawa and Salingyi townships to investigate the incidents and met with the Sagaing Region chief minister, the region's security and border affairs minister, police officers, the regional medical superintendent, the township forensic doctor, the general manager from the Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings Ltd (UMEHL) and local people, the report says.

However, MNHRC failed to disclose whether the commission met with heads of MWMCCL.

According to the report, the clashes occurred when protesting farmers found themselves confronted by a line of police. Several people on both sides were injured due to poor management by police.

At the time of the fencing, the Salingyi Township General Administration Department had imposed a curfew under Section 144 of the penal code, which was in effect until December 31, 2014 in the project area. The Sagaing Region Police Office also adopted a seven-step security procedure for the fencing on December 20, 2014.

However, police and security agents failed to follow the third step in the procedure -- to disperse the crowd with water cannons. Police were also unable to use tear gas and to control the crowd as they were not well-equipped.

Instead, police fired gunshots into the air to disperse the crowd, which is not within proper riot control regulations, while villagers attacked them with sticks, knives, sickles and slingshots, the report says.

According to local people, Daw Khin Win was standing when she was shot dead. Local reports conflict over whether she was shot by police or someone else.