Myanmar police crack down on student protesters

2015-03-06 08:58
Protesters are detained by police after a gathering opposing a new education law in Yangon, Myanmar. (Khin Maung Win, AP)

Protesters are detained by police after a gathering opposing a new education law in Yangon, Myanmar. (Khin Maung Win, AP)

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Letpadan - Police cracked down on student protesters opposing Myanmar's new education law on Friday, roughly grabbing demonstrators and loading them onto trucks in the third such clampdown in as many days.

An Associated Press photographer and other witnesses in Letpadan, 140km north of the country's main city Yangon, said the incident happened when about 20 students broke off from a larger group of protesters gathering at a nearby monastery.

Police swooped in, dragging five people, including a young woman, into trucks, they said.

The demonstrators, among hundreds protesting in different cities for more than a month want the government to scrap the education law that they say curbs academic freedom.

Eight demonstrators were released earlier on Friday after they were detained a day earlier in Yangon when police charged at them with batons and dragged them into trucks.

Police launched a similar crackdown on Wednesday against factory workers rallying for higher pay and better working conditions in an industrial zone just outside Yangon.

Since Myanmar started moving from a half-century of brutal military rule toward democracy four years ago, the government has found itself grappling with the consequences of newfound freedoms of expression.

Many of the initial reforms that marked President Thein Sein's early days in office have stalled or begun rolling back, with the government showing particular sensitivity about public rallies and criticism in the press.

The government had warned it would take action if the student protesters who were stopped at a monastery in Letpadan tried marching to Yangon.

The groups at Letpadan and at Sule Pagoda have similar aims.

They want the government to scrap a law passed by parliament in September that puts all decisions about education policy and curriculum in the hands of a group largely made up of government ministers.

Students say the law undermines the autonomy of universities, which are still struggling to recover after clampdowns on academic independence and freedom during the military's rule.

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