MONYWA, Burma Security forces used water cannons, tear gas and smoke bombs Thursday to clear protesters from a copper mine in northwest Burma, wounding villagers and Buddhist monks just hours before opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi arrived in the area to hear their grievances.
Monks and other protesters had serious burns after the crackdown at the Letpadaung mine near the town of Monywa.
“I didn’t expect to be treated like this, as we were peacefully protesting,” said Aung Myint Htway, a peanut farmer whose face and body were covered with black patches of burned skin.
The police action was seen as a setback for the reformist government of President Thein Sein, which has been touting its transition to democracy after almost five decades of repressive military rule.
“This is unacceptable,” said Ottama Thara, a 25-year-old monk who was at the protest. “This kind of violence should not happen under a government that says it is committed to democratic reforms.”
Suu Kyi’s visit to nearby Kan Kone village had been scheduled before the crackdown, and thousands of people were waiting to hear speak Thursday afternoon.