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Myanmar Student Protesters, Police Continue Standoff

  • VOA News

A student protester, foreground, shares food with a police during a sit-in in Letpadan, north of Yangon, Myanmar, Wednesday, March 4, 2015.

A student protester, foreground, shares food with a police during a sit-in in Letpadan, north of Yangon, Myanmar, Wednesday, March 4, 2015.

A standoff is continuing for a third day between Myanmar police and student protesters who are trying to march to Yangon to demand changes to an education reform bill.

Student leader Thiha Win Tin told VOA on Wednesday that police continue to surround the activists at a monastery in Letpadan, about 130 kilometers north of Yangon.

Speaking by phone from Letpadan, he said police continue to threaten to arrest the students if they try to continue their march. So far, he said police have not made any arrests and that the activists are sticking to their demands.

The group of more than 1,000 students set off from Mandalay last month to demand Myanmar's military-dominated government scrap a new education reform law.

They say the law will centralize control of universities in Myanmar, also known as Burma. They also want more government spending on education as well as the freedom to organize teachers and students.

Government and student leaders have for weeks engaged in talks, and even appeared to have made a breakthrough last month. But the agreement eventually fell through.

Earlier this week, the government said "if the students head towards Yangon and protest, it would not be like an effort to amend the education law but be like harming the peace and stability of the country."

Protests are tightly restricted in Myanmar, which is recovering from decades of a harsh military dictatorship. Democratic freedoms have improved slightly since 2011, when the country's military leaders handed power to a nominally civilian government.

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