- Riot police move in to end Myanmar copper mine protest
- U.S. flight delayed after passenger finds shotgun shell
- UN chief recommends "offensive military operation" in Mali
Posted: 28 Nov 2012 07:53 PM PST
YANGON (Reuters) - Riot police fired water cannon and tear gas early on Thursday to break up a three-month protest against a vast copper mining project run by the powerful Myanmar military and its partner, a subsidiary of a Chinese arms manufacturer.
After decades of oppression, the Monywa mine has become a test of Myanmar's commitment to reform as protesters probe new-found freedoms, including a relaxation of laws on protests that took effect in July.
It also illustrates growing resentment towards Chinese companies that have expanded in recent years across the country.
Witnesses said truckloads of police arrived at camps near the mine in the Sagaing region in Myanmar's northwest, where thousands have demonstrated against a $1 billion expansion of the project, which they say has caused the unlawful confiscation of more than 7,800 acres (3,160 hectares) of land.
Shin Oattama, a Buddhist monk who had helped the villagers, told Reuters by telephone security forces began to use water cannon and other weapons at about 3 a.m., wounding 10 monks, two of them critically.
"They shot some sort of canisters that caused fire at the camp. We just don't know what sort of weapon it was," he said. "We are now seeking refuge at a nearby village. There's no ambulance, no doctor to take care of the injured," he said.
Land disputes are a growing problem in Myanmar. Protests were suppressed quickly under a military junta in place until last year but have become more common as President Thein Sein opens up the country, also known as Burma, and pushes through reforms.
"This is an example of the skin-deep nature of Burma's reforms," said Mark Farmaner of the London-based advocacy group Burma Campaign UK.
"The new right-to-protest law was hailed as a major reform but it is clear there is still no right to protest in Burma."
Aung San Suu Kyi, Nobel Peace laureate and a member of parliament, was going ahead with a scheduled visit to the site on Thursday, her National League for Democracy (NLD) party said. She intended to speak to the protesters about their grievances.
NLD official Ohn Kyaing told Reuters by telephone she had flown to the central city of Mandalay and was going on to Monywa by road.
The mine, Myanmar's biggest, is run by a unit of China North Industries Corp, a leading Chinese weapons manufacturer, under a deal signed in June 2010 after Canada's Ivanhoe Mines Ltd pulled out in 2007. It is backed by the military-owned Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings Ltd (UMEHL).
UMEHL operated with impunity under the military regime that ruled Myanmar for almost half a century until 2011.
The Global Times, an influential tabloid published by China's Communist Party mouthpiece, the People's Daily, said in an editorial published on Thursday it would be a "lose-lose situation for China and Myanmar if the project is halted".
"Only third parties, including some Western forces, will be glad to see this result," it said, blaming "some Westerners" and non-government organisations for instigating the protests.
"We must not give up on the project. Even if it is eventually stopped, Chinese companies should receive compensation according to the contract and international practice," it said.
As the number of land disputes increase, villagers appear emboldened by reforms under Thein Sein, who took office in March 2011, and are pushing back.
Authorities warned the protesters late on Tuesday to clear the site by midnight that day so that a parliamentary commission could carry out an investigation.
State television said all project work had been halted since November 18 because of the protests.
Myo Thant, a member of the 88 Generation Students Group who has been monitoring the situation in Monywa, said: "Police used tear gas canisters. Gun shots were not heard. So far as we know, three Buddhist monks were injured in the fire that broke out at one of the camps. Nobody knows for sure how the fire started."
Protests stretching back at least three months have involved thousands of locals and supporters. They told Reuters in September four of 26 villages at the project site had already been displaced, along with monasteries and schools.
(Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in Beijing; Writing by Alan Raybould and Jason Szep; Editing by Paul Tait)
Copyright © 2012 Reuters
Posted: 28 Nov 2012 07:45 PM PST
MILWAUKEE (Reuters) - A Delta flight from Milwaukee to Detroit was delayed on Wednesday after a passenger found a live shotgun shell by his seat and everyone on board had to pass through a security check a second time, a sheriff's official said.
The passenger found the shell at 6:47 a.m. local time in the seat-back pocket in front of him, said Fran McLaughlin, a spokeswoman for the Milwaukee County Sheriff's Office. The incident occurred at Milwaukee's General Mitchell International Airport.
A sheriff's canine unit swept the plane and found no other shell casings, McLaughlin said.
The Transportation Security Administration rescreened all the passengers aboard the flight. After a one-hour delay, the plane took off for its original destination of Detroit, she said.
Representatives from Delta and the TSA could not be reached for comment.
The man who found the shell was interviewed by investigators, who found nothing suspicious about him, McLaughlin said. It remained unclear how the shell ended up on the flight.
(Reporting by Brendan O'Brien in Milwaukee and Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; Editing by Tim Gaynor and Peter Cooney)
Copyright © 2012 Reuters
Posted: 28 Nov 2012 07:44 PM PST
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday recommended that the Security Council approve an African Union peace enforcement mission be deployed to combat Islamist extremists in northern Mali, but did not offer financial support from the world body.
Diplomats and U.N. officials say that peace enforcement missions allow the use of lethal force in serious combat situations, while peacekeeping operations are intended to support and monitor an already existing ceasefire.
The last U.N.-led peace enforcement mission approved by the 15-nation Security Council was in Somalia in the early 1990s when 18 U.S. troops were killed in the "Black Hawk Down" incident, an event that led to U.S. withdrawal of combat troops from U.N.-commanded peacekeeping operations.
Ban's cautiously worded recommendation made clear that the world body is still wary of getting back into the peace-enforcement business. He said that the council should ensure that political, human rights, training and operational benchmarks be met before any military offensive commences.
As planning for the mission continues, Ban said the 15-nation council could "authorize member states of the African Union to establish AFISMA for an initial period of one year, comprising 3,300 (international) personnel to take all necessary measures to assist the Malian authorities."
AFISMA is the proposed acronym for the U.N.-mandated African force in Mali.
"Fundamental questions on how the force would be led, sustained, trained, equipped and financed remain unanswered," Ban said. "Plans for both the international force and the Malian security and defence forces need to be developed further."
One Security Council diplomat was furious at Ban's recommendation against granting the AU request for U.N. funding for the operation, which U.N. diplomats estimate will cost $300 million to $500 million.
"I think it's quite insulting to a number of countries, in particular to some AU countries," a Security Council diplomat said on condition of anonymity.
Another diplomat said the council was under no obligation to follow Ban's recommendations, although he added that it might be hard to secure a majority in favour of overriding them in order to provide U.N. funding to an AU operation in Mali.
Ban suggested that the funding for the initial military combat operations could be through "voluntary or bilateral contributions" - which diplomats said meant European Union member states would be asked to cover costs.
"TARGETED MILITARY OPERATIONS"
The fall of Mali's north to Islamists, including AQIM, al Qaeda's North African wing, has carved out a safe haven for militants and international organized crime, U.N. officials say, stirring fears of attacks in West Africa and in Europe.
African leaders are seeking a U.N. mandate to send a mainly West African force to rebuild Mali's army and back operations to win back the occupied desert zones.
Ban expressed reservations about the United Nations' capacity to take on "terrorists and affiliated groups."
"Targeted military operations may be required to dislodge them from northern Mali, in which case member states may decide to directly support the military activity needed to combat these groups," Ban said.
He added that once major combat operations the council could consider authorizing an actual U.N. peacekeeping mission.
Council diplomats said that could take the form of special forces units from individual U.N. member states.
Diplomats say they want to adopt a resolution authorizing the mission before the end of the year.
African officials estimate there are 2,500-3,000 core fighters amongst the Islamists coming from Africa, Europe and Asia. The U.S. estimates the hard-core contingent of Islamists much lower at between 800 and 1,200. The conflict has forced 400,000 Malians to flee their homes.
Regional powerhouse Algeria says it prefers a negotiated solution.
U.N. diplomats and officials say the Algerians are concerned that a military offensive against the Islamists in northern Mali could push them across the border into Algeria, though Algiers has indicated its cautious support for the undertaking.
Last week former Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi, the U.N. envoy to the troubled Sahel region, which includes Mali, ruled out imminent action, saying it would not be possible before September or October next year.
The European Union is planning to send 200 troops to Mali to help with training. But like the United States and former colonial power France, which is the keenest of Western nations for military action, Brussels has ruled out a combat role.
West Africa regional bloc ECOWAS agreed this month to commit the 3,300 troops for the international force. The troops would mostly come from Nigeria, Niger and Burkina Faso, but other West African countries and two or three non-African states may also contribute, said Ivory Coast President Alassane Outtara.
Once viewed as an example of progress towards democracy in Africa, Mali fell into chaos after a coup in March that toppled the president and left a power vacuum that was quickly exploited by rebels to take over the north.
(Editing by Stacey Joyce and Eric Walsh)
Copyright © 2012 Reuters
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