After Tense Standoff, Student Protesters Allowed Passage Through Taung Tha

By Zarni Mann 27 January 2015

TAUNG THA, Mandalay Division — A government minister will meet with student demonstrators marching from Mandalay to Rangoon to protest the National Education Law, according to a student leader.

Nanda Sint Aung told The Irrawaddy that Wednesday’s meeting plans with Aung Min, a Minister of the President’s Office and chair of the Myanmar Peace Center, resulted from negotiations between authorities in Taung Tha and the demonstrators, who had earlier encountered a police blockade at the entrance to the township.

“We have planned a meeting with U Aung Min in Naypyidaw tomorrow at 9am,” Nanda Sint Aung said on Tuesday evening. “We will discuss our 11-point request with him. You could say it may in fact be a preliminary meeting for the four-party talks we have also demanded.”

Tensions rose earlier in the day near Taung Tha Township when about 100 policemen took up positions to block some 500 students from continuing their march between Mandalay and Rangoon from Myingyan Township on Tuesday.

The demonstrators were allowed passage through Taung Tha Township on Tuesday evening after negotiations with local authorities. A local official told The Irrawaddy that the students were allowed to proceed after an official order from Ye Myint, the Chief Minister of Mandalay Division.

“We thanked authorities for letting us pass through Taung Tha. We are just peaceful demonstrators asking for our rights,” said one of the protesters.

During the standoff, crowds of supporters had travelled from Myingyan and surrounding villages to bolster the ranks of the demonstrators. Once news spread that the last police barricade to the township’s entrance had been lifted, the demonstrators’ numbers were swelled by hundreds of local supporters. The tense atmosphere eased as people poured into the streets to greet protesters, and fellow students from the neighboring towns of Yenanchaung and Kyaukpadaung came to show solidarity with the marchers.

“We were really worried for them when we heard about a possible confrontation with the police this morning,” said one Taung Tha resident who was waiting for the students. “Now I’m glad to hear that they have settled things.”

The students will spend the evening at Taung Tha before resuming their journey on Wednesday morning.