Myanmar Higher Education Protests Met With Police Violence

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A weeks-long standoff between student protesters and police in Myanmar (Burma) has come to an end as police charged students with batons.  The students were also kicked and beaten as they were dragged to trucks by members of the police force as they pushed for reforms to higher education in the country.

Witnesses report seeing many of the protesters injured during the events, although it is not yet known how severe those injuries were. According to the Ministry of Information, 127 were arrested.  Among those arrested were two student leaders, Min Thwe Thit and Phyo Phyo Aung, reports Gemunu Amarasinghe for ABC News.

The students were joined in the protest by monks and other activists in the last nine days of protesting.

Journalists present were also chased by the police.

The event serves as a reminder of the authoritarian military of Myanmar’s past.  The country had begun to rise above it only four years ago, as a nominally civilian government.

Student protesters had gathered to stage a sit-in on a road near a monastery last week.  However, authorities stopped them from marching to Myanmar’s biggest city of Yangon by blocking their path with vehicles and barbed wire barricades.

Earlier in the week, reports of negotiations between the two sides had been released, with a breakthrough agreement announced prior to the start of the riot.  The agreement allowed students to continue on their way to their final destination using trucks given to them by the government.

However, the students reportedly became angered over the police not allowing them to carry flags, sing songs, or travel in a convoy.  The students then tried to break through the human police chain that was formed several layers deep.

About 200 students began to push their way through the police.  Some fainted or cut themselves on the barbed wire.  Others were chased into a nearby Buddhist monastery where they have since taken refuge.

After the riot had come to an end, police could be seen celebrating, shouting, “Victory!  Victory!”

The protest was put together in an effort to get the government to put an end to a new education law that they believe limits educational freedom.  The students were asking for more power to be delegated to higher education institutions across the country, in addition to the right to form student unions and for teaching to take place using ethnic minority languages.

The protest, which began in January, has come to serve an even greater purpose.  Many are watching to see if it becomes a symbol for those unhappy with the lack of reforms occurring throughout the country.