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Police assault teenagers at demonstration in Thonse

Teenage protestors in Pegu division’s Thonse township were allegedly beaten by local police officers, while they were participating in a candlelight vigil on 24 May.

Long-running energy shortages cause frequent blackouts across Burma, while the majority of the energy-rich country’s natural gas is continuing to be sold to neighbouring countries.

Protests have spread across the country as demonstrators demand adequate access to electricity. While the protests have largely remained peaceful, reports of police assaulting participants are on the rise.

Last Thursday around 8:30pm, five teenagers, including one National League for Democracy member, were stopped by 16 policemen when they arrived at Thonse Bridge.

“They stopped us, saying you cannot go any further. Right after saying that, the [town’s] police commander U Sein Htway broke our candles and started punching us,” said one of the alleged victims Aung Myo.

“I took a hit on the left side of my face and my friend Pho Zaw got a boot in the stomach. We sustained injuries and are preparing to sue the police commander U Sein Htay.”

According to Aung Myo, an unidentified individual in civilian clothing also joined in and began assaulting the teenagers.

NLD chair in Tharawaddy township Aung Myint said he was questioned by local officials from several government departments, including police commander Sein Htway.

“One of the teenagers involved in the incident is an NLD members, but I explained to the [officials] that his participation [in the protest] was not on behalf of the NLD,” said Aung Myint.

The NLD chair went on to say the party would seek legal action if it was requested.

“As Ko Aung Myo is a NLD member, we would assist him with the lawsuit if he asked us,” said Aung Myint.

On 23 May, four electricity protesters in another Pegu division town, Prome, were assaulted and detained by the police for unlawful protest. They were later released after they were bailed out by their parliamentary representatives.

Protest against the country’s massive energy deficits continue to spread across the country after kicking off in Mandalay on 20 May.

On Sunday night, around 250 protestors holding candles and handmade placards quietly made their way through Rangoon’s darkened streets and rallied in Sule Pagoda.

A young man holding up a cardboard placard reading “Please Nay Pi Daw, help us,” says people feel frustrated and abandoned by their government, which relocated to the new administrative capital, some 300 kilometres north of Rangoon in 2009.

“We want electricity, we want democracy, we want this government to change,” said the protester, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

-Kate Kelly provided additional reporting from Rangoon


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