Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Sittwe Students Protest Bus Fare Hike

Hundreds of students from Technological University in Sittwe in western Burma protested peacefully on Monday against a 100 percent hike in school bus fares.

The university's buses previously charged 150 kyat (US $0.15) per student for the ride to the campus, which is located 12 miles from Sittwe city center. Fares were increased on Monday morning to 300 kyat ($0.30).

Speaking to The Irrawaddy on Tuesday, a student from Technological University said, “We are unhappy with the increased bus fare, and we took to the streets to voice our concerns.”

At 3 p.m. On Monday, about 300 students from Technological University refused to take the bus because of the revised fare and walked from the campus to Sittwe city center at a time when most students were returning home. The number of protesters grew to about 1,000 after students from Computer University in Sittwe joined in, said the source.

“Soldiers blocked us on the road and threatened to shoot us if we kept marching,” he said. “But, we didn't listen and kept on walking.”

The protest continued until 10 p.m. when the head of Computer University in Sittwe, Aung Kyaw Nyein, met with the students and said he would resolve the matter, the source said, adding that the number of people had by that time increased to about 3,000, including students' parents and onlookers.

The western region commander Maj-Gen Thaung Aye reportedly put pressure on teachers on Tuesday to find out who initiated the protest.

Speaking to The Irrawaddy, a history professor at Sittwe University said, “It is not good for the students if bus fares go up. But, bus drivers were only getting 150 kyat from each student. The price of gasoline has gone up. They have to put their fares up.”

In January last year, students from Technological University staged similar protests in the Arakan capital.

Hundreds of demonstrators also took to the streets of Sittwe during the Saffron Revolution of 2007, which was sparked by a protest over a hike in gasoline prices.


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