Monks in Myanmar injured during a 2012 protest are suing the country's interior minister and police chief. More than 100 monks suffered burns when police used smoke bombs apparently containing white phosphorus.
The two Buddhist monks were taking part in a protest at the Letpadaung copper mine in the country's northwest in November 2012, when authorities used the smoke bombs to disperse demonstrators.
The weapons allegedly contained the poisonous chemical white phosphorus, leaving more than 100 monks with serious burns.
At a news conference in Yangon, one of the men, U Withoda, said they are taking interior minister Lt. Gen. Ko Ko, and police chief Zaw Win, to court because they believe it's the right thing to do.
"We are suing the government not out of a grudge or for personal gain, but because we want justice," he told reporters.
He also demanded Myanmar's government apologize for the use of the bombs by police in trying to break up the protest, as well as to settle land disputes.
The mine has been a focal point of disagreements over land rights in recent years.
The monks were protesting alongside villagers about a planned billion-dollar expansion of the mine.
Residents said they had been forcibly evicted to make way for the project, while the monks claim Buddhist holy sites have been damaged or destroyed.
The other monk involved in the suit, 66-year-old U Tikha Nyana, said he also wanted to see justice served.
Following the protest he was left with burns to more than 60 percent of his body.
'A test for the legal system'
In a statement, human rights group Justice Trust condemned what they called "illegal police action," calling it a test for the country's courts.
"This is a groundbreaking test case for Myanmar's legal system," the group's executive director Roger Normand said.
"It is critical that senior government officials are held accountable when their orders result in gross violations of people's rights."
Justice Trust also stated that 57 of the monks required long-term medical care to recover from their injuries.
Police have continued to deny using chemical shells during the 2012 unrest, but admitting to using tear gas and water cannons.
The Letpadaung mine is the biggest in Myanmar, and is jointly owed by China.
Residents living nearby claim the facility is damaging the environment as well as their health, and want it closed down.
Myanmar's almost half-century of military rule ended in 2011, but since then the semi-civilian government, headed by President Thein Sein, has struggled to transform the southeast Asian nation into a democracy.
In December 2014 police opened fire on protestors at the site, killing one person.
an/rc (AP, Reuters, dpa)