Peace Protesters Banned from Leaving Rangoon
By Hpyo Wai Tha 21 September 2012
RANGOON—Protesters heading to Naypyidaw for a demonstration against the Kachin State conflict in front of the commander-in-chief’s office were prevented from leaving Rangoon early on Friday morning.
Nearly 250 people intended stage a protest at the military chief’s headquarters against the raging civil war in northernmost Burma but were not allowed to board buses to the capital. Protesters were instead asked to disperse by the divisional police chief.
“At 3:30 in the morning, before starting our trip to Naypyidaw, the Rangoon police chief and security forces appeared and warned us not to leave as our plan was unlawful and we had no permission,” said Jaw Gum, one of the protest organizers from the Kachin Peace Network.
Demonstrators were also not allowed to march into downtown Rangoon and confined in front of the People’s Square with nearly 50 police officers standing guard. The group was then ordered to disband four times.
“The police said they could take legal action against us if we don’t disperse. So finally, at 7 am, we agreed to break up,” explained Jaw Gum.
Activists demanding a stop to the year-old Kachin conflict planned to hold demonstrations in several cities across the country on Friday to mark International Peace Day, yet their requests for government permission have been denied.
“We want to ask the president whether seeking permission to hold a protest for peace is more important than the lives of people in the warzone,” added Jaw Gum.