Five Detained in Prome as Power Protests Spread

By Lawi Weng 24 May 2012

As protests against power shortages spread to more cities in Burma, five people were briefly detained on Thursday morning in Prome, Pegu Division, after security forces reacted violently to protesters.

Hundreds of people took the streets of Mandalay on Wednesday night for a third time, while in Rangoon, Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi told a crowd that she was pleased to see local people taking part in peaceful protests.

In Prome, some 300 people marched down Lanmadaw Street at 9 am on Thursday to protest against crippling power cuts which have affected people in Burma for years. As the crowd marched down the street, shouting slogans and carrying posters, security forces attempted to block their path. Eye witnesses said that a scuffle broke out and about half a dozen protesters were beaten with batons by the police.

Speaking to The Irrawaddy, protester Ye Kin said, “The police started beating people up. It was an ugly scene, especially now that we have been told we have the right to protest.”

The fracas followed a brief candlelit vigil the night before in central Prome.

In Mandalay on Wednesday night, a group of about 40 protesters held a candlelit vigil at a monastery took to the street for a third day after about 40 people were detained briefly the night before.

In Rangoon, hundreds of protesters turned out on Wednesday night at Sule Pagoda in the heart of the city. Sources in the former capital said the demonstrators marched along Bogyoke Aung San Street, shouting slogans, and were well received by locals on the sidewalks. Security forces then confronted the protesters and handed a letter to former political prisoner Han Win Aung who they perceived as leading the march. The letter reportedly instructed the protesters to disperse, and threatened them with arrest under the State Law and Order Restoration Council Order No 2/88 which disallows the assembly of more than five people.

Also in Rangoon on Wednesday night, a group of protesters held a candlelit vigil outside the power station at South Dagon Township. NLD member Nay Myo Zin said that police interrupted the protest and dispersed the crowd.

Opposition leader Suu Kyi spoke on Tuesday at the opening ceremony of an NLD office in East Dagon Township in Rangoon.

“I like it when I hear on the radio that people in Mandalay had protested while holding candles,” she said. “They are standing up for what they need—which is electricity.”

She said that the country is not poor, but that the people are poor.

However, Suu Kyi stated that she disagreed with the popular sentiment that the people needed electricity now, but democracy could come later.

“We need to think deeply about why we do not get a regular supply of electricity,” the Nobel Peace Prize winner said. “We need to know what the causes are.”