LETPADAN, Myanmar – Hundreds of Myanmar police and hired thugs charged at students protesting a new education law on Tuesday, pummeling them with batons and then dragging them into trucks, ending a weeklong standoff.
Witnesses said many of the demonstrators suffered injuries, some to the head. Police also chased after journalists, scattering them.
The protesters began their sit-in just over a week ago on a road near a monastery in Letpadan after police barred them from marching to Yangon, Myanmar’s biggest city, about 140 kilometres to the south.
The demonstrators want the government to scrap a newly passed education law that they say curbs academic freedom.
Earlier Tuesday, the two sides had appeared close to reaching an agreement. Authorities said the students could march to a nearby town and then be transported to Yangon in government-provided trucks, but when they demanded that the protesters refrain from shouting slogans or waving flags along the way, tensions again soared.
More than 400 police formed human chains to block the road. The protesters tried to push their way through.
The police and hired thugs then turned on the students, chasing after them with batons and sticks. Associated Press photographers said some protesters were beaten in the head, punched and kicked as they were dragged to the waiting trucks.
Several protesters were arrested, including one student leader, Min Thwe Thit.
Another student leader contacted by phone, Honey Oo, said police chased the protesters into the monastery, beat them and then dragged them away.
“Many have been beaten and some have been arrested, including many female students,” Honey Oo said.