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On the banks of Inya Lake on Sunday, white armbands were distributed to passers-by in a symbolic protest against the role played by civilian vigilantes in the recent violent repression of public demonstrations.
The activists have no affiliation with any political group, said organiser Saung Kha, but are just members of the public who object to the use of violence against peaceful protestors.
Groups of men wearing red armbands emblazoned with the word “Duty” on 5 March helped police to violently disperse a protest in Rangoon city centre held in solidarity with education activists in Pegu Division’s Letpadan. Many observers have pointed fingers at the notorious pro-government Swann Arr Shin organisation as the instigators of the melee.
Hlaing Township government officials arrived at the scene and told the activists to disperse.
The campaign began on Friday, 13 March, in Rangoon when the white armbands were first distributed to people in Maha Bandula Park, as well as at railway stations and jetties around the city. The action was also taken in the Irrawaddy Division capital, Bassein, also known as Pathein.
Activists say they have their eyes set on 18 townships, with a nationwide campaign planned for 19 March.
The Burmese government’s use of vigilante groups against protestors has drawn international criticism.
Meanwhile on Sunday in Japan, prayers were led by Burmese and Japanese students at the Great Buddha of Kōtoku-in in Kanagawa Prefecture for the release of those students who were detained by the government for their part in the Letpadan protest.