Burma apologises for police attack on protesting monks

A monk injured in the police crackdown at a Burmese copper mine
Image caption More than 20 monks were injured when police broke up the protest

The government in Burma has apologised to Buddhist monks for the injuries sustained during a police operation outside a copper mine nine days ago.

More than 50 people, including 20 monks, were injured when police tried to clear protesters who said local farmers had been forced off the land.

Injuries included severe burns blamed on incendiary devices thrown by police.

The raid last month was the toughest action since a more reformist government came to power last year.

The BBC's South East Asia correspondent, Jonathan Head, says the apology reflects the government's nervousness over the role of monks, who command high public respect.

They often take up political and social causes, bringing them into conflict with the authorities.

Joint venture

Religious Affairs Minister Myint Maung told a delegation of senior monks that the police regretted the injuries, which he blamed on the "incompetency" of the authorities.

He said the government would do its utmost to prevent such incidents happening again.

It has established a commission of inquiry, headed by opposition leader Aung Sung Suu Kyi.

She visited the area last Friday and demanded an apology for the monks.

Eight people have been charged in connection with the protests. They are being held in Insein prison in Rangoon.

The Monywa copper mine in northern Burma is a joint venture between a Chinese company and Myanmar Economic Holdings, owned by the Burmese military.

Hundreds of people are alleged to have been forced from their land to make way for a $1bn (£620m) expansion of the mine.

More than 7,800 acres (3,200 hectares) of land is being appropriated. Considerable damage to the environment is also reported.

Activists are calling for work at the project to be suspended to allow impact studies to be carried out, but China insists that the contentious points have already been resolved.

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