Burma Power Protests Spread Despite Arrests

By Aung Thet Wine 25 May 2012

Organizers of the mass protests against power outages which have spread across Burma this week will use alternative ways of demonstrating to avoid confronting security forces.

Six people were arrested when protesters clashed with riot police in Prome, Pegu Division, on Thursday and organizers are keen to avoid any similar altercation.

“We will continue our demonstration so all people can be involved peacefully by, for example, releasing hot air balloons with a letter demanding electricity on a 24-hour basis,” Rangoon-based protester Han Win Aung told The Irrawaddy on Friday.

He said that people could still take part in the popular protest by lighting candles in their homes to express their desire for steady power supplies.

After three consecutive days of demonstrations, a total of 3,000 people joined the latest episode which started at 7:30pm on Thursday at Sule Pagoda in the very center of Rangoon.

The demonstrations against blackouts started in Mandalay, Burma’s second largest city, where people have been heading out after dark holding candles since May 20. Similar marches then spread to Rangoon, Prome and Bago.

“We arranged this type of demonstration because we want the people to be safe and sound,” added Han Win Aung. “Besides, it will be easier for people to participate and more can join the demonstration.”

Prome-based organizer Ye Htin Kyaw said, “We will issue a statement calling for the resignation of the Minister of Electric Power-1, which highlights his remarks regarding selling surplus electricity to China.”

He added that the street demonstrations have been quite dangerous for local people who had their route blocked by riot police and were then beaten up during Thursday’s protest.

“To avoid this situation, a signature campaign is planned to start at the next demonstration,” said Ye Htin Kyaw.

During the demonstration in Prome on 24 May, police arrested six activists but they were subsequently bailed. However, the authorities tried to charge them under Peaceful Protest Law of Dec. 4, 2011.

The judge rejected the police attempt to file charges due to the lack of legal justification in this case, said Ye Htin Kyaw, adding that demonstrators who were manhandled may instead file complaints against the officers involved.

He said that the local authorities explained that in an effort to solve the problem of power shortages, the government has bought an electric turbine that can produce 500 Kilo-Volt-Amps of electricity.