Monks protest in Burmese cities over mine crackdown

Monks took to the streets to protest in Rangoon

Buddhist monks have held rallies across Burma to demand further apologies from the authorities over a crackdown last month against a copper mine protest.

Large crowds came out to support the monks as they marched in Rangoon, Mandalay and other major cities.

About 100 people, many of them monks, were injured when police broke up protests at the Monywa mine.

The police action was the toughest since the nominally civilian government came to power last year.

The case is seen as a test of how the new government handles growing protests over projects begun under the military.

Burma's government has already expressed regret to senior clerics that monks were injured in the crackdown at the mine on 29 November. Members of the police also apologised to a group of monks at Monywa.

The monks had backed protesters who oppose the expansion of the giant Chinese-backed copper mine in the north-west.

Injuries suffered by demonstrators included burns, which activists blame on incendiary devices they say were thrown by police.

Earlier this week, eight people arrested and charged in connection with the protests were released on bail in Rangoon.

Hundreds of local people are alleged to have been forced from their land to make way for a $1bn (£620m) expansion of the mine, a joint venture between Chinese arms manufacturer Norinco and the Burmese military.

The company has said that the deal was voluntary, and that only a small minority of farmers rejected it.

An official inquiry into the crackdown and the mine expansion plan is being led by opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who has called for compromise.

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