KUALA LUMPUR, Nov.25 (Xinhua) -- Nearly ten-thousand people marched to the centre of Malaysia's capital city Kuala Lumpur on Sunday to push in desperation for a halt on an Australian-based rare earth refinery, which is set to begin operation next month, over health concerns.
Sunday's rally was a culmination of a 13-day march by many of the protesters on foot from Kuantan in the Pahang state, 300 kilometres away where the plant is located.
Clad in green, the protestors, who stopped at a standoff with hundreds of police and a barricade preventing them from entering the landmark Independent Square (Dataran Merdeka), said they would camp on the site till Monday morning and demanded to meet with a government official.
"Why would I not protest if it is health hazardous? I consider our protest successful because we managed to persuade more people to be on our side but I am heartbroken at the same time that while we were walking a long way, Lynas were secretly transporting the raw materials to its plant. It was a tough journey as hundreds of us were forced to share a toilet and brace the storm, trying our best to cancel the plant but Lynas got away with it," Kuantan resident, Too Ya Mei said.
"We hope the government can hear his people's voices. I believe they can't handle any untoward consequences. Advanced countries like Japan couldn't handle (radiation-related disasters), let alone Malaysia," another demonstrator Andrew Lim said.
District police chief, Zainuddin Ahmad declared the assembly illegal and the city hall had earlier this week warned the public against the rally.
The rally was one of the largest organised by environmental activist group Himpunan Hijau since the demonstrations against the controversial plant started two years ago.
The march came after protesters' efforts to appeal a temporary operating license issued by the Atomic Energy Licensing Board to Lynas went futile.
The government said it issued the license after Lynas fulfilled the requirement for a permanent disposal facility among others.
Opponents of the plant feared the plant, which they said sits on a tropical pit swamp, would generate radioactive waste that is hazardous to health.
Lynas was granted a manufacturing license two years ago as operations at the plant were slated to begin last year but they were suspended following growing anger from the public.
An estimated 100 containers of rare earth concentrate were reported to have been shipped to Kuantan as Lynas said it would begin operating next month and expects production revenue to flow in the first quarter of next year.
Lynas insisted the residue generated by the plant releases radiation level 500 times lower than what the Malaysian law permitted and that the waste material will be properly managed.
The plant would produce metals worth five billion ringgit (91. 66 billion U.S. dollars) a year that are used in making green products like wind turbine, LEDs and flat screen televisions.