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Sunday August 19, 2007
YANGON, Myanmar (AP) - More than 400 people led by prominent pro-democracy activists staged a rare protest in Myanmar's biggest city Sunday, marching against a massive recent fuel price hike, activists told the Associated Press.
"We are staging this performance to reflect the hardship our people are facing due to the government's fuel price hike,'' said Min Ko Naing, a leader of the 88 Generation Students' Group.
Myanmar's ruling military junta imposed a surprise 100 percent hike on fuel at state-owned gas stations on Wednesday. The move was followed by increases in bus fares and
The government did not give reasons for the increase.
The march began with about 100 people led by former student activists of the 88 Generation Students' Group moving along a major road in north Yangon. The crowd swelled to more than 400 marchers as bystanders joined in and then all dispersed after covering about 9 kilometers (5 miles).
The protesters did not shout slogans or hold up placards.
"Some cars stopped and those inside clapped their hands when they knew that we were staging this performance in protest against the fuel price hike,'' said Min Ko Naing.
Authorities watched and videotaped the event, but did not interfere with the protest.
The 88 Generation Students' Group includes former student leaders who were active in the 1988 pro-democracy uprising against the military. Many of them have served long prison terms.
The government, which holds a monopoly on fuel sales and subsidizes them, raised prices of fuel from 1,500 kyats (US$1.16; 85 euro cents) to 3,000 kyats (US$2.33; euro1.71) per imperial gallon for diesel and to 2,500 kyats (US$1.94; euro1.42) for gasoline.
A canister of natural gas containing 65 liters (17 gallons) was raised from 500 kyats (39 U.S. cents; 29 euro cents) to 2,500 kyats (US$1.94; euro1.42).
The hike immediately affected commuters who use public transport as bus fares have increased along with those of basic consumer products.
On Wednesday, some workers at a garment factory in Yangon demanded salary raises to meet the spiraling transportation and food prices.
Another group of activists have also said they would stage a protest against the fuel price hike if the government fails to scrap it within a week. - AP
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