YANGON (REUTERS) - Myanmar police said on Thursday (May 19) charges will be filed against around 10 demonstrators who took part in a labour rights protest in which scuffles broke out as they attempted to enter the capital.
Workers from a wood-processing factory in Sagaing State in the northwest last month began marching towards Naypyitaw, bringing their demands for compensation, but were stopped short by police on Wednesday.
Photos showed police surrounding the protesters before officers began roughly hauling people away.
Police Colonel Zaw Khin Aung, from the Naypyitaw-based Police Headquarters, said that of 71 protesters who had been arrested, 20 had been released. "Responsible departmental officials are persuading the rest of the protesters to return to Sagaing. Legal action will be taken (against) about 10 protest leaders and outside instigators," he said on Thursday.
Myanmar's capital, built by the former junta, is around 370km north of the country's largest city, Yangon. "It's okay to stage protests for their rights in their respective region but we can't afford to let them protest in Naypyitaw area, which is a special area under the president,"Zaw Khin Aung said.
The decision comes as parliament, dominated by members of Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD), debates possible changes to the law on public demonstrations.
The NLD, whose ranks are filled with former political prisoners, dissidents and activists, has freed scores of political prisoners since taking power in April.
But rights groups like Amnesty International have criticised the proposed changes for not going far enough to protect peaceful protesters. "As it stands, the draft retains restrictions to the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly which breach international human rights law," the group said in a statement.