Mon State — Residents of Kayah State opposed to the recent arrival of a statue of Gen. Aung San in the capital city of Loikaw have set up a protest camp in front of the local office of the National League for Democracy after police broke up their camp near the statue last week, according to a local activist.
Khun Thomas said the protesters blame the ruling NLD for the statue of the late independence hero and that about 40 of them have been camping out in front of the party office since Saturday to demand that NLD officials meet with them and discuss their objections.
“They came to open their office, but no one has come to negotiate with us yet,” Khun Thomas told The Irrawaddy on Monday.
“We set up a strike camp in front of their office because the NLD members, including the chief minister of the state, L Phaung Sho, led the project. Therefore, the state government and the NLD have a duty to solve this problem. Our intention in setting up a strike camp in front their office was to have negotiations,” he said.
Khun Thomas said township authorities have threatened to break up the new camp as well, because it was a restricted area and they did not ask for permission. But he said it would persist until party officials agreed to meet with them.
U Taung Htay, who heads the NLD’s Loikaw office, said the office has written to NLD headquarters about the protesters’ demands and was awaiting instructions.
“I am still communicating with headquarters about it,” the told The Irrawaddy, insisting that those opposed to the statue were in the minority.
“It was not a good reason to come and set up a protest camp in front of our office. Their current action isn’t against the statue. Their action seems to attack the NLD office,” he added. “I even asked them to stop the protest and go home.”
Protesters said hundreds of people rallied in support of the statue during an inauguration ceremony on Saturday and that several NLD members, including the state chief minister, attended the event.
But U Taung Htay insisted the statue was not erected on orders from senior NLD officials and denied claims that local party members were involved in the project.
NLD spokesman U Myo Nyunt declined to comment on the controversy.
Twenty protesters were arrested during a demonstration against the statue in Loikaw on Friday. They were charged with violating the Peaceful Assembly and Procession Law and released on bail the same day.