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Burma cracks down on students, then

Subject: Burma cracks down on students, then free them (The Asian Age, 8/12/96.)

Burma cracks down on students, then frees them 
Harshest action by military junta against demonstrators in eight 
Rangoon, Dec. 7: Burma's military government said most of the 
264 protesters held at a demonstration near the University of 
Rangoon on Saturday had been released. 
"Most of those held in the 3 a.m. operation have been released 
by this early afternoon and I would expect all of them to be 
freed by the end of the day," a spokesman told Reuter. 
He did not give details of how many people had been freed. 
He said the government was still checking the identities of some 
of those held at the Kyatkasan ground, a former racetrack, in 
central Rangoon. 
Soldiers and riot police rounded up students and other 
protesters after using water cannon and batons to end an 11 
hour street protest in the capital just before dawn, witnesses 
The crackdown began when troops and the police rushed a 
group of students sitting at a junction near the University of 
Rangoon who had refused to heed orders to disperse. 
On Monday, up to 2,000 students from Rangoon University and 
Rangoon Institute of Technology held the biggest street 
demonstration seen in Rangoon since mass pro-democracy 
uprisings in September 1988. 
The 1988 uprising was crushed by the ruling State Law and 
Order Restoration Council, leaving many dead and thousands 
more in jail. 
Before troops and the police moved in early on Saturday, the 
students were warned to disperse so authorities could sort out 
the "political agitators" from the protesters, witnesses said. 
Fire engines used water canon for about 20 minutes and the 
police chased some students trying to flee, they added. 
Some protesters were struck with batons as they were put into 
vehicles and taken away. 
"We saw students at the centre of the junction being forced by 
water cannon to crouch face-down to the ground.  Some were 
hit by flying stones," said one witness near the scene. 
The students were demanding rights to organise independent 
unions on campus and as well as freedom for about 80 jailed 
student leaders. 
There has been no official comment on the group of 80 students 
or when they were being held. 
On Friday, the students said the protests were non-political and 
they had no contact with Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi 
or her National League for Democracy party. 
Rangoon was calm on Saturday with most residents unaware of 
the pre-dawn crackdown. 
However, truckloads of armed security forces kept watch at 
several intersections near the university and the Rangoon 
Institute of Technology which is about six km away. 
For a time, witnesses said, a government helicopter hovered 
over the troubled Institute, which was shut for nearly two years 
following the 1988 uprisings. 
The police have blocked roads leading to Ms Suu Kyi's home 
since Tuesday, reflecting government fears that she might be 
drawn into the protests.  Ms Suu Kyi and the student have 
denied any links with one another, but her supporters said there 
was a moral bridge between the two parties. 
The students said their protests had been triggered by what they 
called unfair police handling of a student brawl near a restaurant 
in October. (Reuter)