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Hundereds held as student protests
Subject: Hundereds held as student protests shake Rangoon.
Hundreds held as student protests shake Rangoon
Burmese security forces detained hundreds of people early today
after breaking up the biggest anti-government protests in Rangoon for
almost a decade.
The arrests came after a day and night of marches and sit-in
protests that drew several thousand students and workers on the streets
of the capital in defiance of the ruling military regime.
The demostrations, which began as a student campus protest but
grew into a strident democracy demonstration, ended at dawn when more
than 200 troops and riot police confronted the marchers outside the
sacred Shwetagon Pagoda in the heart of Rangoon.
Witnesses said several hundred protesters were rounded up and
driven away in police trucks. Unconfirmed reports said dozens of students
were beaten as they tried to flee.
Police later sealed off access to the home of democracy leader
Aung San Suu Kyi in an apparent attempt to stop supporters rallying
outside the house, where she was scheduled to hold an afternoon news
A spokesman for the ruling State Law and Order Restoration
Council said late today that none of the detainees was still being held.
"They were not detained or faced any charges. They were simply
held briefly to sort out whether they were real students or
infiltrators," the spokesman said.
"After paper checks, they were sent back to their school and
hostels because we want them to continue their peaceful studies."
But Rangoon-based observers said the protests, which came after
weeks of growing political tensions in Burma, had shaken the regime.
Similar student-based protests in 1988 sparked a mass democracy
uprising that ended with a brutal crackdown in which at least several
thousand people were killed.
The latest protest began yesterday afternoon when about 200
students, angered by the Government's response to a brawl in late October
at a local restaurant, staged a sit-in at the Rangoon Institute of
After authorities rejected their demands for the reinstatement of
two students suspended after the brawl, the protesters marched five
kilometers to the gates of Rangoon University where they were joined by
about 3000 other students.
Later last night about 1000 of the students led a procession into
the city's central business district.
Witness said many residents joined the protester.
Marchers waved banners demanding a return to democratic rule.
[By Mark Baker, South-East Asia corresponded, Bangkok, Tuesday, 3