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

    US Internet Giants, EU Reach Deal to Combat Online Hate Speech

    Facebook, Twitter, Google and Microsoft commit to ‘quickly and efficiently’ act to clamp down on use of social media to incite violence, terror

    Video Tunisia’s Ennahda Party Begins a New Political Chapter

    Party now moves to separate its political and religious activities; change described by party members as pragmatic response to political and economic challenges facing Tunisia today

    Virtual Reality Fine-tuned at Asia Tech Show

    Microchip designers hope to improve resolution for users of systems that can turn your bedroom into the ocean floor

    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.
    Tech Startups Showcase Wares at Amsterdam Conferencei
    X
    Serginho Roosblad
    May 30, 2016 5:11 PM
    More than 20,000 tech enthusiasts, entrepreneurs and lovers of digital technology came together in Amsterdam recently at the Next Web Conference to discuss the latest developments in digital technology, look to the future and, of course, to connect. In recent years, there has been an explosion of so-called startup businesses that have created devices and applications that have changed the way we live; but, as Serginho Roosblad reports for VOA, there are pitfalls for such startups as well.
    Video

    Video Tech Startups Showcase Wares at Amsterdam Conference

    More than 20,000 tech enthusiasts, entrepreneurs and lovers of digital technology came together in Amsterdam recently at the Next Web Conference to discuss the latest developments in digital technology, look to the future and, of course, to connect. In recent years, there has been an explosion of so-called startup businesses that have created devices and applications that have changed the way we live; but, as Serginho Roosblad reports for VOA, there are pitfalls for such startups as well.
    Video

    Video US Military's Fallen Honored With Flags

    Memorial Day is a long weekend for most Americans. For some, it is the unofficial start of summer -- local swimming pools open and outdoor grilling season begins. But Memorial Day remains true to its origins -- a day to remember the U.S. military's fallen.
    Video

    Video Rolling Thunder Rolls Into Washington

    The Rolling Thunder caravan of motorcycles rolled into Washington Sunday, to support the U.S. military on the country's Memorial Day weekend
    Video

    Video A New Reading Program Pairs Kids with Dogs

    Dogs, it is said, are man's best friend. What some researchers have discovered is that they can also be a friend to a struggling reader. A group called Intermountain Therapy Animals trains dogs to help all kinds of kids with reading problems — from those with special needs to those for whom English is a second language. Faiza Elmasry has more on the New York chapter of R.E.A.D., or Reading Education Assistance Dogs, in this piece narrated by Faith Lapidus.
    Video

    Video Fan Base Grows for Fictional Wyoming Sheriff Longmire

    Around the world, the most enduring symbol of the U.S. is that of the cowboy. A very small percentage of Americans live in Western rural areas, and fewer still are cowboys. But the fascination with the American West is kept alive by such cultural offerings as “Longmire,” a series of books and TV episodes about a fictional Wyoming sheriff. VOA’s Greg Flakus recently spoke with Longmire’s creator, Craig Johnson, and filed this report from Houston.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora