Naypyidaw Orders Rangoon Protest Crackdown Inquiry

By Sean Gleeson 11 March 2015

RANGOON — President Thein Sein has ordered the creation of a commission of inquiry into the violent dispersal of a student protest held in downtown Rangoon last week, according to state-run media.

The Mar. 5 protest outside Sule Pagoda was attacked by police officers and a group of plainclothes men wearing red armbands emblazoned with the word “duty”. The men were spotted entering the nearby City Hall building, where a local police contingent is stationed, shortly before initiating an attack on the students.

It is believed the men were deputized under Section 128 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, a colonial-era statute which empowers magistrates and police chiefs to recruit male civilians to subdue “unlawful assemblies” by force.

The protest was staged in order to call upon the government to seek a peaceful settlement with 200 student demonstrators in Letpadan, Pegu Division, who were blocked from continuing their journey to Rangoon by a large security force. On Tuesday, the Letpadan protesters were attacked by police, resulting in 127 arrests and an estimated 100 injuries.

According to Wednesday’s report in the Global New Light of Myanmar, the commission will investigate “whether security forces acted properly in dispersing the protesters, and whether the authorities responsible acted in line with legal procedures.”

Brig-Gen Kyaw Kyaw Tun, the deputy minister of home affairs, will lead the commission alongside former civil servants and representatives of the Rangoon Division and Union governments. The commission has been ordered to report by the end of March.