Burmese Electricity Protests End Without Arrests

Posted May 22nd, 2012 at 2:10 pm (UTC-5)
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Two rallies against chronic electricity shortages in Burma's commercial capital, Rangoon, ended peacefully Tuesday, after residents gathered in the central city to protest rolling power blackouts.

The protests, along with similar rallies Sunday and Monday in Mandalay, are a rare departure from the norm in the Southeast Asian nation, which had been under harsh military rule for half a century until last year.

Witnesses said Tuesday's protests at the Sule pagoda in central Rangoon involved about about 150 people, including former political prisoners jailed by the military regime that relinquished power 13 months ago. The French news agency reported a heavy police presence at the protest site late Tuesday, and said several opposition party members were briefly detained for questioning before being released.

More than one thousand residents protested Sunday and Monday in Mandalay, but there were no reports of arrests in the country's second city.

Electricity blackouts are common in Burma, with outages regularly lasting six hours in Rangoon and three times longer in Mandalay.

The Mandalay protests this week were the largest in Burma since 2007, when Buddhist monks and others launched a massive campaign of disobedience against military rule. Those protests, known as the Saffron Revolution because of heavy monk participation, were crushed with overwhelming military force. At least 1,000 people were detained during the crackdown, with hundreds of unarmed protesters injured.