News / Asia

Burma’s Spreading Protests Test Reformist Government

A couple walks past graffiti that reads "Plug The City." The phrase has appeared on various places in the capital, Rangoon, since the government implemented electricity cuts. A couple walks past graffiti that reads "Plug The City." The phrase has appeared on various places in the capital, Rangoon, since the government implemented electricity cuts.
x
A couple walks past graffiti that reads "Plug The City." The phrase has appeared on various places in the capital, Rangoon, since the government implemented electricity cuts.
A couple walks past graffiti that reads "Plug The City." The phrase has appeared on various places in the capital, Rangoon, since the government implemented electricity cuts.
BANGKOK - Authorities in Burma have detained at least 10 people for supporting or taking part in the street protests against electricity cuts that began Sunday in Mandalay, the country's second-largest city.

Hundreds of protesters have marched every night, peacefully holding candles in a symbolic gesture against the recently announced cuts.

VOA’s Burmese Service confirmed most of those taken into custody were questioned for several hours and then released. They included local writers and a few members of Aung San Suu Kyi’s opposition National League for Democracy party.

Poet Okkar Kyaw was among those detained on suspicion of being an organizer, but later released.

He said police wanted to know about the candle-light protests, asking him what leadership role he played and if he knew the organizers. Police also asked him if they plan to hold another protest. He said he told the authorities they do not.

Burma’s reformist government crafted a law allowing demonstrations, but only if organizers get permission.  It also allows for the arrest of protest organizers.

The law needs to be changed to put it in line with international standards, said Soe Aung, spokesman for the Forum for Democracy in Burma.

“If it is a peaceful protest and without disturbing the public, for example the transportation or the traffics, then there should not be any reason for authorities to make arrests or even without asking for permission,” he said.

The Mandalay demonstrators apparently organized somewhat spontaneously through the Internet, after authorities announced cutting electricity to only several hours a day.

Burma is rich in oil, gas, and hydropower, but sells much of it to neighbors Thailand and China leading to frequent power shortages. Of 60 million people, only one in four have access to electricity.

Human Rights Watch senior researcher on Burma David Matthieson said the protests are a big test of how the new government responds to the needs of ordinary people.

“That should be a wake up call to the government, to think, there has got to be a more equitable redistribution of this country’s wealth to the people that really deserve it, which is the people of Burma," Mathieson said.  "So, hopefully, these demonstrations and what the protesters are actually saying sparks a more lively, open debate about the basic services within the country and the government’s responsibility to provide them to its people.”

Demonstrations are rare in Burma and were put down violently by the military in 1988 and 2007.

There are parallels between this week’s protests and the beginning of the 2007 Saffron Revolution, when authorities started arresting political dissenters, Matthieson said.

“A lot of them were actually arrested in August before the big demonstrations involving Buddhist monks.  And, they were arrested for marching peacefully calling for better living standards, lower commodity prices, and access to electricity.  And so, given recent history I think people should be concerned about the possible ramifications of this,” said Matthieson.

Burma’s state media issued a rare plea to the public to show understanding.  The New Light of Myanmar newspaper reports plans are underway to build more power plants in cooperation with companies from the United States, Japan and Korea.

You May Like

Sydney Hostage-taker Failed to Manipulate Social Media

Gunman forced captives to use personal Facebook, YouTube accounts to issue his demands; online community helped flag messages, urged others not to share them More

UN Seeks $8.4 Billion to Help War-Hit Syrians

Effort aimed at helping Syrians displaced within their own country and those who've fled to neighboring ones More

Who Are the Pakistani Taliban?

It's an umbrella group of militant organizations whose objective is enforcement of Sharia in Pakistan 'whether through peace or war' More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Putin: Russian Economy to Rebound in 2 Yearsi
X
December 18, 2014 5:13 PM
Russian President Vladimir Putin held his annual end-of-the-year news conference Thursday, tackling questions on the Russian economy, the crisis in Ukraine and Russian relations with the west. VOA's Jeff Custer reports.
Video

Video Putin: Russian Economy to Rebound in 2 Years

Russian President Vladimir Putin held his annual end-of-the-year news conference Thursday, tackling questions on the Russian economy, the crisis in Ukraine and Russian relations with the west. VOA's Jeff Custer reports.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?

The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video Turkey's Authoritarianism Dismays Western Allies

The Turkish government has been defiant in the face of criticism at home and abroad for its raids targeting opposition media. The European Union on Monday expressed dismay after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at Brussels for criticizing his government's action. Turkey's bid to be considered for EU membership has been on hold while critics accuse the NATO ally of increasingly authoritarian rule. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid