Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – A joint force of about 400 riot personnel and police on Monday dispersed about 200 protestors who tried to march from Dagon Myothit (East) to Sule Pagoda to mark the fourth anniversary of Burma’s “Saffron Revolution.”
The group was walking to Sule Pagoda to conduct prayers when they were stopped in front of the Meteorology and Hydrology office near the Sartite bus top in Mayangon Township and told to return home.
Mayangon Township Police Chief Khin Maung Soe told them to disperse or they could be punished under existing laws, an organizer, Wai Lu, told Mizzima.
“They said that section 354 of the 2008 Constitution that says every citizen can assemble peacefully has not been approved by the Parliament, so we could be arrested under existing laws that say an assembly of more than five people is against the law,” Wai Lu said.
Because of the order to disperse, the protestors broke up around 1:45 p.m., Win Cho, one of the protestors, told Mizzima.
“They ordered us to divide into small groups of three people each and disperse. Our group was big so we started to divide into small groups. We will obey the law exactly,” Win Cho said.
Some observers objected to the demonstrations. Weekly Eleven News quoted Dr. Than Htut Aung, the CEO of the Rangoon-based Weekly Media Group: “Amnesty will be granted soon. If the country becomes stable, the political prisoners will be released. We have to handle the problems regarding the Myitsone Dam project. The Myitsone problem will be solved. Under Burma’s political circumstances, it’s impossible to achieve an 'Arab style' uprising."
Than Htut Aung was quoted on the media group’s website that Aung San Suu Kyi, the general-secretary of the National League for Democracy, said she didn’t “want anybody to organize protests like this.”
The “Saffron Revolution” in September 2007 saw demonstrations of tens of thousands of people in Rangoon, Mandalay and Sittwe. The final death toll was 31, according to the UN human rights envoy to Burma, Paulo Sergio Pinheiro. However, news organizations reported far larger numbers, and many people were reported missing. Many monks were badly beaten, arrested and imprisoned.
On October 11, 2007, state media reported that 2,100 people had been arrested, but other sources said the number was much larger.
The anti-government protests started on August 15 after the government removed fuel subsidies which caused the price of diesel and petrol to suddenly rise as much as 66 per cent. Buddhist monks were the main leaders of the protests, joined by students and opposition political activists, including many women. The demonstrations took the form of a campaign of nonviolent resistance.
There were news reports of disagreements within the Burmese military on the decision to crack down on the protesters, but none were confirmed.