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Police block landmark protest

Diverted demonstration is Yangon's largest in five years

Yangon police prevented protesters from boarding buses to Naypyidaw early this morning Yangon police prevented protesters from boarding buses to Naypyidaw early this morning
  • Min Set, Yangon
  • Myanmar
  • September 21, 2012
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Police in Yangon today blocked protestors from heading to what would have been the first ever demonstration in the purpose-built capital Naypyidaw.

They were denied a permit to rally in the capital and prevented from taking buses to make the six-hour trip north, where they had planned to gather in front of the office of reformist President Thein Sein.

A protest organizer, Jaw Gum from Kachin state, the scene of recent fighting between the army and ethnic rebels, said Yangon security forces demanded they disperse at about 7 a.m.

“The local police chief told us to quit our planned protest in Naypyidaw, saying it was unlawful and that action would be taken if we did not,” he said.

The protesters joined another rally to sing peace songs in front of Yangon City Hall, then march several kilometers around Myanmar’s largest city. With numbers reaching around 500, this was Yangon's largest protest gathering since the bloody ‘Saffron Revolution’ led by monks in 2007.

“Through our peaceful protest we really want the authorities to know and understand the lives of those in conflict areas and to realize their sorrows,” said Khaw Htoi, a senior member of the Kachin Peace Network.

Saw Hla Aung, general secretary of the Rakhine National Development Party, which holds a small number of seats in parliament, blamed lower level officials for blocking the protest, adding that Thein Sein was a good man.

In July, his government passed laws permitting protests in Myanmar following half a century of authoritarian rule by the military.

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