A clash between police and students erupted in Letpadan on Friday morning, after days of simmering tensions. Five students were arrested, with journalists caught up in the fray.
Attempts at negotiations from activists could be seen, before the police moved in to quell the scenes of unrest. Those arrested included members of the All Burma Federation of Student Unions who had been attempting to address market-goers in Letpadan using a megaphone, informing them of the arrests of activists near the Rangoon City Hall the previous day.
The five have been named as Thar Aye, Ye Myo Swe, Ye Yint Paing Hmu, Aung Min Khant and Ei Thinzar Maung.
The Irrawaddy photojournalist Sai Zaw was in middle of the scrum.
Sai Zaw: Someone will have to answer for this! This is violence against media workers.
DVB: Who was the guy manhandling you?
Sai Zaw: That guy tried to snatch me.
[Voice from the crowd]: Wait, I got a photo of that motherf****r.
DVB: Please tell us how it happened?
Sai Zaw: He yelled, “Catch that guy!” and tried to grab my camera. He instructed the police to arrest me, and the police tried to drag me away. I only escaped because other reporters pulled me back.
DVB: Please tell us your name and your agency?
Sai Zaw: I’m Sai Zaw, from The Irrawaddy.
Speaking by telephone to DVB on Friday, a police officer in Letpadan confirmed that: “ABFSU members were detained at the local marketplace this morning and are being questioned at the station. But I do not know why they were arrested.”
Letpadan, one hundred miles north of Rangoon, has been the centre of a student sit-in and symbolic hunger strike this week. The standoff between police and students at the Kyundaw Street intersection continues, as the education activists and monks continue to stage a sit-in.
Meanwhile, in Rangoon on Thursday, police moved in to forcibly put down a protest of two hundred students and activists.
Track the chronology of the student protests with DVB’s interactive map.