Thursday, July 8, 2010

School Closed After Demonstration

Sittwe: The Government Technical College in Sittwe was closed by authorities on Tuesday after students staged a demonstration against the increase in school bus fares on Monday, said Ko Kyaw Myint, a student from the college.

"The college authority announced the school would be closed immediately on 6 July, soon after the demonstration took place, as authorities were worried the demonstration would continue into the next day," he said.

Over 300 students from the college staged a demonstration on Monday by walking in the streets from the school to the state administration office in Sittwe, after the school bus fares increased suddenly.

"We staged the demonstration in front of the Rakhine State Peace and Development Council's office demanding the the school bus fare be reduced when we reached there. We stopped our demonstration after the authority promised us the fares would return to normal," he said.

The demonstration started at the college at 3 pm, when the school buses demanded 200 kyat per trip from each student. The fare had previously been only 100 kyat.

"We were unable to pay 200 kyats in bus fare one way, so we all agreed to stage a demonstration by marching to the Rakhine State Peace and Development Council office to state our demands. We started our walk at 3 pm and reached the office at 8:30 pm. When we arrived at the office we demonstrated and demanded a reduction in the school bus fares," he said.

The authority promised to reduce the fares, but the college authority still announced the school would be closed the next day. According to sources, many students are now avoiding the school out of fear that authorities will take action in response to the demonstration.

"The college authority announced it would close the school on 6 July, but many students would not go to school today on 7 July out of fear of action by the authorities. The school is to remain closed through next Sunday," the student added.

The school bus bus owners had to demand the 200 kyats for one-way fare from students after steadily losing profits. In the past the bus owners received fuel from the government to run between Sittwe and the college, but the government stopped supplying the fuel after handing over operations to the privately-owned Htoo Company, led by business icon Teza.

The Htoo Company has been unable to supply fuel to the school buses as before, and the buses subsequently demanded double fare from students.

Two years ago there were similar student demonstrations after the buses raised their fares, but the bus drivers later cut their fares after the government authority intervened.



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