Negotiations to end a march on Burma’s capital by former employees of a wood-processing factory in Sagaing Division broke down on Wednesday, resulting in the arrest of protest leaders as the group approached the town of Tatkon in the Naypyidaw Union Territory.
Earlier in the day, the protestors decided to stand down after speaking with local officials at a roadblock set up by police on Tuesday evening along the marchers’ route on the old Rangoon-Mandalay highway.
The officials suggested appointing five representatives of the group to meet with government officials in Tatkon. However, the situation descended into chaos when the workers later rejected the proposal and attempted to cross the police barricade.
According to police, eight people were taken into custody after the protestors were contained by a ring of police wielding riot shields.
“Eight instigators were arrested. Other protesters also insisted they be arrested, too, but we will only take legal action against the ones who committed offenses according to our investigations,” said Ottarathiri District police chief Ko Ko Aung.
“We exercised as much restraint as possible to prevent violence. We gave them a lot of time to disperse and constantly warned them after they arrived in the Naypyidaw Union Territory,” he added.
The former employees of the Myanmar Veneer and Plywood Private Ltd factory in Sagaing’s Padamya Industrial Zone started their march more than two weeks ago to demand government mediation in their dispute with company, which they accused of wrongful dismissal in connection with demands for overtime pay and other improvements in working conditions.
The march, which began on 29 April, came after a two-month sit-in protest at the factory ended without achieving its goal of winning support from local officials.
The protestors said they planned to set up a rally camp in front of the President’s Office.