Cops accused of beating Myanmar protesters
Police in Myanmar were accused of beating and detaining protesters yesterday as they broke up the country's first major demonstrations in years.
The spreading rallies against power cuts, the first protests since a deadly crackdown on monk-led demonstrations in 2007, are being closely watched as a test of the new quasi-civilian government's tolerance of public discontent.
Several demonstrators were beaten and six people were taken away by police for questioning for several hours, said protest leader Kyaw Swe, one of those detained in Pyay town, some 300 kilometres north of Yangon.
A local resident also reported heavy-handed tactics.
"About 50 police arrived and asked the people to stop... some people were injured," Nyi Nyi Aung said.
Nyan Win, a spokesman for opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) party, said three or four of its members were among those detained in Pyay.
The rallies, which started at the weekend in Mandalay, Myanmar's second-largest city, have also spread to Yangon, where about 250 residents on Wednesday defied a police request to disperse.
Until Thursday's incident, police had not deployed tough tactics to disperse protests.
On Tuesday, about 10 NLD members were held by police for several hours in Mandalay for questioning and later released without charge.
The government directly addressed the protests and power shortage issue yesterday-- a rare recognition of public sentiment in the country formerly known as Burma, where decades of outright military rule ended last year.
The impoverished country suffers crippling power cuts and only 13 percent of the population has access to electricity, according to 2009 figures from the World Bank.