Burmese Protesters Press Demands for Electricity

Posted May 23rd, 2012 at 12:35 pm (UTC-5)
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More than 1,000 Burmese protesters defied police and returned to the streets of Rangoon on Wednesday to demand an end to electricity blackouts in key Burmese cities.

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

Wednesday's rally at the Sule Pagoda in central Rangoon marks the second time in as many days that demonstrators have confronted police in the commercial capital with demands for 24-hour electricity. Such power blackouts are commonplace in the impoverished country, often lasting six hours or longer in major cities.

Organizers tell VOA's Burmese service that police cautioned against Wednesday's protest with legal notices in local newspapers, and said organizers chose to launch the latest candle-light demonstrations despite the official warnings.

“West Rangoon Police Commissioner Myo Aung showed a letter to our leader, Han Win Aung, (saying that) a gathering of more than five people is against the law and police will have to take legal action. After our leader read the letter, we changed our route (to the pagoda and proceeded).”

There were no reports of violence or arrests. But police briefly detained and questioned several members of the opposition National League for Democracy party Tuesday, before releasing them.

Elsewhere in Rangoon, more than 5,000 textile workers and other laborers from five separate factories remain on strike, demanding salary increases from $18 a month to $36. The strikers at the Hlaing Thayar industrial zone began their job action nine days ago, and factory owners — many of them foreign nationals — have so far refused worker demands.

The Irrawaddy news magazine says most of the factories manufacture clothing for foreign markets.