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Myanmar Police Trap Student Protesters in Monastery

Student protesters confront police officers preventing them from joining another group of students in a monastery in Letpadan, north of Yangon, Myanmar, March 2. 2015.

Riot police in Myanmar have blocked hundreds of students protesters inside a monastery to prevent them from continuing a march to Yangon.

The students, who set off from Mandalay last month to protest a new education reform law, had spent more than a week at the monastery in Letpadan after successful talks with the government last month.

But Monday, student leader Thiha Win Tin told VOA's Burmese service that his group awoke to a large police presence as they prepared to resume their walk to Yangon, about 130 kilometers to the south.

"Now, they have surrounded the monastery with police trucks, fire trucks and so on. And they do not allow [us] to leave anymore,” he said.

The government released a statement saying, "According to the announcement of the Ministry of Home Affairs, if the students head towards Yangon and protest, it would not be like an effort to amend the education law but be like harming the peace and stability of the country. Moreover, it is said that action against the students will be taken in accordance to the law.”

Last month, the government agreed to the demands of the student activists and pledged to make changes to the education law. However, the students said they would continue with their march, despite government warnings for them to stop while parliament considers changes to the law.

More than 1,000 students have been marching to Yangon to protest new legislation that they say will centralize control of universities in Myanmar. They also want more government spending on education as well as the freedom to organize teachers and students.

This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Burmese service.