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Myanmar monks protest mine

MONYWA, Myanmar — Hundreds of Buddhist monks and villagers occupying a copper mine in northwestern Myanmar defied a government order to leave by Wednesday, saying they will stay until the project is halted.

The protesters, who have set up six camps at the site, say the Letpadaung mine near the town of Monywa is causing environmental, social, and health problems.

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The protest is the latest major example of increased activism by citizens since an elected government took over last year following almost five decades of repressive military rule.

The mine is a joint venture between a Chinese firm and a company controlled by Myanmar’s military. China is a major investor and strategic ally of Myanmar, and the backing of the military is crucial to government stability.

State television broadcast an announcement Tuesday night that ordered protesters to cease their occupation of the mine by midnight or face legal action. It said operations at the mine had been halted since Nov. 18, after protesters occupied the area.

There had been nearly 1,000 protesters at the mine, and some left after the announcement, said Win Kyawt Hmu, a protester. The number remaining was hard to judge, but appeared to include at least 100 Buddhist monks.

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