Police fired water cannon at protesters in the north-west Myanmar town of Monywa today to force them from a copper mine, hurting villagers and Buddhist monks.
The crackdown at the Letpadaung mine risks becoming a political hot potato for the supposedly liberalising government of President Thein Sein.
The environmental and social damage produced by the mine has become a popular cause in activist circles but was not particularly a matter of broad public concern
However, hurting monks is sure to rile many ordinary people.
Monywa hospital said 27 monks and one other person were admitted with burns caused by some kind of projectile that released sparks or embers.
Two monks with serious injuries were sent for treatment in Mandalay.
Other evicted protesters gathered at a Buddhist temple about three miles from the mine gates.
The mining operation is a joint venture between a Chinese company and a holding company controlled by the military.
State television broadcast an announcement on Tuesday night ordering protesters to leave by midnight or face legal action.
It said that operations at the mine had been halted since November 18, after protesters occupied the area.
Some villagers among the 1,000 protesters left the six encampments at the mine afterwards.
But others stayed throughout Wednesday, including about 100 monks.
Police moved in to disperse them early today.
"Around 2.30am police announced they would give us five minutes to leave," said protester Aung Myint Htway, whose face and body were covered with black patches of burned skin.
He said police fired water cannon first and then shot what he and others called flare guns.
"They fired black balls that exploded into fire sparks. They shot about six times.
"People ran away and they followed us," he said. "It was very hot."
Photos of the wounded monks showed they had sustained serious burns on parts of their bodies.
It was unclear what sort of weapon caused them, or whether the burns were caused by their shelters catching fire.
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