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Myanmar police fire rubber bullets at protesters

– Police fired rubber bullets on protesters who gathered at a roadblock near a Chinese-backed copper mine project in northwestern Myanamar, injuring seven, a lawmaker said Friday.

Nine officers also were hurt, a monk said, when villagers retaliated with slingshots.

The incident occurred near the Letpadaung mine in the Monywa division of Sagain region late Thursday after days of mounting tensions, said Khin San Hlaing, a lawmaker from pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s party.

Police blocked a road frequently used by residents from Mogyopyin village to try to disrupt the shipment of supplies to a small “protest camp” set up by Buddhist monks near the mine, said Sandar Thiri, one of the monks.

The Letpadaung mine – a joint-venture between a Myanmar military-controlled holding company and China’s Wanbao Mining Copper Ltd – drew international attention one year ago when police dispersed protesters with smoke bombs containing white phosphorous. The bombs caused severe burns to protesters – mostly Buddhists monks.

Those who opposed to the project say it will cause major environmental, social and health problems. They add the deal lacked transparency because it did not undergo parliamentary scrutiny under the previous military regime.

But following a revision of the contract and compensation to villagers, a report by a president-appointed investigation commission headed by Suu Kyi recommended that the project be allowed to go ahead.