Asia

Riot police surround protesting Myanmar students

Student protesters rest in a monastery after police surrounded the monastery preventing them from proceeding with a protest march to Yangon from Letpadan, north of Yangon, Myanmar, Monday, March 2, 2015. Image copyright AP
Image caption The students are in the Aung Myae Baikman monastery

Riot police in Myanmar have blocked a march by students protesting against a bill they say curbs academic freedom.

Police surrounded a monastery in the town of Letpadan where 300 students are camping en route from Mandalay to Yangon, the country's main city.

The students, who began their march in January, hope to be joined by supporters and sympathisers.

The authorities have promised changes to the education bill, but students say their protest will continue.

The students paused to camp at the monastery in Letpadan, about 130km (80 miles) north of Yangon last week following negotiations with the government.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Another group of students attempted to join those inside the monastery
Image copyright AP
Image caption They confronted police who tried to stop them

But the group said on Sunday it would continue with its march.

On Monday the protesters woke to find more than a dozen police vehicles parked outside the building, Associated Press reported.

"Our students are inside the monastery and all the exits and entrances have been closed. The tension has grown since this morning," one activist inside the Aung Myae Baikman monastery told the French news agency AFP.

The students believe the new education bill is undemocratic and centralises control over higher education institutes.

They have called for greater freedom in universities, the freedom to set up student and teacher unions, more government spending on education, and more say in education policies and laws.

The military ruled Myanmar (also known as Burma) for decades, until the generals announced a transition in 2010 and handed power to a largely civilian government.

Student activists were at the forefront of several major uprisings in Myanmar during military rule.

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