Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi urged protesters Wednesday to accept a controversial Chinese-backed mine that was the scene of a violent crackdown last year, or risk hurting the economy.
The Nobel laureate, visiting villages near the mine in Monywa, northern Myanmar, said local people and the wider economy would suffer if the project was stopped, despite fears about the environment and land grabbing.
A parliamentary report overseen by Suu Kyi, released on Tuesday, said police used phosphorus against demonstrators at the mine last year in the harshest crackdown on protesters since the end of military rule.
However, a probe into the November clampdown, which left dozens wounded including monks, recommended the mine project should not be scrapped, despite conceding it brought only "slight" benefits to the nation.
"If we stop this project, it will not benefit local people or the country," Suu Kyi told villagers on Wednesday, many of whom apparently had yet to hear the probe's findings.
"(China) might think that our country cannot be trusted on the economy," she said. "We have to get along with the neighboring country whether we like it or not."
Since decades of junta rule ended two years ago, Myanmar has seen protests against land grabbing as disgruntled rural people test the boundaries of their freedom to demonstrate under a reform-minded government.