Growing alarm over Aung San Suu Kyi
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Growing alarm over Aung San Suu Kyi

Critics fear the democracy icon and Nobel Prize winner is being coopted by the government, reports Asia Sentinel

Hundreds of angry protesters confronted Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi this morning over her seeming conciliatory stance over a controversial Chinese-operated copper mine project commissioned by the government in the north of the country. It was the first time the 67-year-old Suu Kyi, who spent 15 of her 21 years in the country under house arrest, has become the target of popular protest.

Suu Kyi’s motorcade was surrounded by an estimated 500 villagers protesting the Letpadaung copper mine project as she attempted to explain the controversial findings of a parliamentary inquiry which she chaired into the project.

Dismay has been growing over the Nobel Prize winner and democracy icon’s seeming willingness to bend to the government in Naypyidaw over a series of issues, of which the copper mine project is the latest. The leader of the National League for Democracy, Suu Kyi has also been criticized for not being more aggressive in criticizing the government of treatment of the Rohingya and Kachin minorities.

(READ MORE: Whitewashing the crackdown on Burmese protestors)

After the government cracked down violently on the protesters in November and December, authorities apologized to the Buddhist clergy who were injured and appointed Suu Kyi to chair a government-led commission to investigate. However, the report released this week contradicted an earlier Human Rights Watch report calling for full accountability from the perpetrators of the violence.

Although she spent nearly three hours with the protesters attempting to explain the commission’s findings, locals repeatedly shouted: “We reject the Commission’s results. We won’t accept them at all.”

The mine project is a joint venture between the military-owned Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings and Wanbao, the operator, which is a subsidiary of Norinco, China’s international weapons manufacturer and dealer. Wanbao took over the project after the Canadian mining firm Ivanhoe stepped out in 2010. The company confiscated 7,800 acres (3,156 hectares) of land in 2010, outraging villagers, who are also concerned about pollution.

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