150 wounded in Tunisia clashes with police: medic (AFP)
SILIANA, Tunisia — More than 150 people were wounded on Wednesday in a second day of clashes between Tunisian security forces and thousands of protesters in a poor southwestern town, a hospital source told AFP. A doctor at the hospital in Siliana said more than 150 people were being treated for different types of injury, with four of them transferred to Tunis. The emergency services in Siliana, some 120 kilometres (75 miles) south of Tunis, were visibly overwhelmed, as relatives of the victims gathered and vented their anger, according to an AFP reporter at the scene.
“We will burn the town!” shouted a man whose son was among those injured. Several armoured vehicles belonging to the national guard were deployed, while protesters erected barricades in the streets. By early afternoon the clashes were ongoing, between stone-throwing protesters and police, with thick clouds of tear gas visible in the town.
The interior ministry declined to comment on the unrest. But the prime minister’s office said it was concerned about “the protests in public places in the Siliana prefecture,” in its first reaction to the unrest. It also said it regretted “the use of violence against the security forces, aggression at the headquarters of sovereignty, and attempts to damage public property.”
Several thousand protesters had gathered at 0900 GMT in front of the prefecture in Siliana demanding the departure of the regional governor, trade union official Nejib Sebti told AFP earlier. The security forces then began firing warning shots and tear gas, before using a “strange” type of shot to disperse the crowd, he said.
Similar clashes took place on Tuesday, with the police then using rubber bullets to scatter the protesters. “The people of Siliana most affected by poverty will never go down on their knees,” Sebti said, warning that they were “ready to die for their rights.” The protesters are demanding the liberation of 14 people detained during violent unrest in April 2011 and funds to boost economic development in the impoverished region, as well as the governor’s resignation.
Copper Mine Protesters Defiant despite Threats
RANGOON—Anti-copper mine demonstrators near Monywa, Sagaing Division, have refused to leave their protest camps until the controversial Chinese-backed project is shut down permanently despite government threats of legal action. The authorities announced on Tuesday evening that those who have been inhabiting six camps in the vicinity of the Letpadaung mountain range copper mine since Nov. 17 must abandon the site by midnight or face legal action. The order came a few days after a decision by Parliament to form a committee to investigate the situation.
More than 1,000 protesters from 26 surrounding villages including Buddhist monks and students have gathered by the project area, according to an anti-copper mine activist at a camp opened at Leldi Sayadaw Pagoda, built in remembrance of one of Burma’s most venerable monks. “Since last night, the government has deployed two police trucks. There are around 100 police with riot gear but no action from them so far,” said Thaw Zin, an activist at the camp, speaking to The Irrawaddy by phone on Wednesday morning. “There are 50 demonstrators at our camp, most of them women,” he added.
Win Win Htay, a native of nearby Sae Dae Village, has been at the camp for nine days. She learned of the government’s threat of legal action late on Tuesday but still wants the cancelation of the project. “Why should we be scared? We are here to face anything that could happen. We demand the shutdown of the project,” said the 29-year-old. “If we give up, we will lose the land that is our lifeline, and the next generation will suffer the consequences of the environmental impact.” Another protester at the camp, Myint Htwe, 49, said he felt very sad upon hearing the government’s ultimatum.
“It’s like our parents forcing us to leave home without any reason,” said the farmer, adding that the authorities should being negotiating with villagers. Myint Htwe used to hope that the government would sympathize with the people and be concerned about the ecological devastation the project is bringing. “But now they are not with us,” he said. “Their actions are like forcing us to hand our land to foreigners. So we are prepared for the worst.”
The project, a joint-venture between the military-owned Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings Ltd and China’s Wan Bao Company, has come under fire since August after more than 300 residents from 12 villages in the Letpadaung mountain range staged protests to demand its closure, citing environmental destruction, forced relocations and illegal land confiscation. More than 7,800 acres of land from 26 villages under the shadow of the mountain range have been seized to make way for the project that began last year. Since mid-November, protesters have been disrupting workers by linking arms to block the path of trucks at the construction site, and erecting camps nearby.
Costa Rican inmates end hunger strike
SAN JOSE: Almost 1,000 Costa Rican inmates ended a two-day hunger strike Tuesday in protest at what they claimed was inconsistent treatment from prison bosses, officials said. Prisoners at the minimum-security A and B wings at the La Reforma prison went on strike on Monday, according to its director Reinaldo Villalobos. Authorities in the Central American nation deployed around 200 police to bolster security inside the jail in the suburbs of the capital San Jose, which holds 3,676 inmates. Villalobos said authorities would review prisoners’ demands, and that no one was injured. Strikers were demanding an end of preferential treatment for some inmates, he said. They specifically wanted their families to be allowed to send in food for them as they claim relatives of other inmates do. – AFP
Turkey Moves to Strip Kurdish Lawmakers’ Immunity
ISTANBUL—Turkey’s parliament on Tuesday took the first step to strip some Kurdish lawmakers of their immunity, a move likely to further inflame tensions between Ankara and the country’s Kurdish minority following the bloodiest summer of violence in more than a decade. The submission of a proposal in the national assembly follows comments on Monday evening by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who accused lawmakers from the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP, for abusing a “shield of immunity” that protects them from prosecution.
The move recalls a decades-old strategy of prosecuting politicians for supporting terrorism, which in the 1990s sent four lawmakers to prison for a decade. It also follows on the heels of a two-month hunger strike by hundreds of Kurdish inmates and politicians that ended two weeks ago, raising hopes that Turkey may take peaceful steps to meet demands from its largest minority and end a three-decade uprising that has cost more than 40,000 lives, with more than 700 deaths since June 2011. The governing Justice and Development Party’s proposal, the premier said, would pave the way for the judiciary to deal with allegations of BDP’s ties to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK; a militant group fighting for Kurdish autonomy, which is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the European Union.
The threat to lift Kurdish lawmakers’ immunity first emerged in August, when BDP politicians were photographed hugging PKK fighters at a roadblock in southeastern Turkey. That triggered a popular backlash that led to calls from lawmakers in Mr. Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party and the Nationalist Action Party to penalize them for openly supporting militant fighters. Analysts warned that lifting immunity would likely hinder steps to broker a lasting agreement between Ankara and elected Kurdish representatives and could embolden extremists on both sides of the conflict. “The country placed all its hope on the resolution of the Kurdish issue and on slowly moving away from violence.
This would be an initiative in the opposite direction,” said Sahin Alpay of the political sciences and international relations department at Bahcesehir University in Istanbul. As the measure moves through parliament, it could certainly stall, analysts said. Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag moved quickly Tuesday to quell speculation that the assembly may seek to strip the Kurdish lawmakers from their membership in parliament, even if it removes their immunity. Turkish commentators have noted that in recent months Mr. Erdogan has made divisive statements that have appeared to seek to diffuse criticism of the government’s plans and actions. Opposition politicians said the threats to lift immunity could be a smoke screen to mask the emergence of new talks with the PKK; a policy which is controversial among broad sections of the public.
Sri Lanka clashes over Tamil rebel remembrance
COLOMBO — Students in Sri Lanka’s former war zone clashed with troops and police Wednesday over celebrations to commemorate defeated Tamil Tiger guerrillas, residents said. At least 20 undergraduates were injured when troops and police beat up stone-pelting students outside Jaffna university, a witness said. It was first major clash since security forces crushed Tamil rebels in May 2009. Police and troops had stormed university dormitories on Tuesday searching for Tamil Tiger propaganda after students tried to mark “heroes’ week” — the last week of November when Tiger guerrillas used to commemorate fallen comrades.
“The students gathered inside the university and came out to protest the military action (of Tuesday) when fighting erupted (on Wednesday),” a witness said, asking not to be identified. He said the vehicle of a local Tamil legislator was also damaged as he tried to stop the violence. There was no immediate comment from the military, but the AdaDerana news website published photos soon after Tuesday’s military raid of the campus along with one image of a student on the ground being beaten by three policemen. Tuesday’s incident degenerated into a bigger confrontation on Wednesday as students protested at the military intrusion into their hostels, leaving more than 20 students injured, witnesses said.
Sri Lanka lifted a state of emergency in August last year after defeating Tamil Tigers in May 2009, but heavily armed troops and paramilitary police units are often deployed to support police. Jaffna, the cultural capital of the island’s ethnic Tamil minority, was once run as a de-facto separate state by the Tigers. The latest clashes between the troops and students came amid international calls to de-militarise Jaffna, 400 kilometres (250 miles) north of Colombo, and ease restrictions on the civilian population.