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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
BY VITHOON AMORN
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
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
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)