Malaysian Protesters Defy Government BanBy Chad Bouchard
06 July 2008
Thousands of Malaysians gathered at a stadium to protest inflation and a recent fuel hike, despite a government ban on the rally. Chad Bouchard reports from Jakarta that political tension has been increasing during the past week in Malaysia.
Protester wears headgear with a slogan reading, 'Protest until Down,' during a day-long anti-fuel hike rally at a stadium in Kelana Jaya, outside Kuala Lumpur, Sunday, 06 July 2008The protesters filed into a stadium in a suburb of Kuala Lumpur to call for an end to last month's 40-percent increase in gas prices.
The protesters chanted "reformation", echoing a rising call for change within the government following dismal election results for the country's ruling party in March.
The rally was initially banned by the federal government, which said the organizers lacked the necessary permits.
The country's opposition leader, Anwar Ibrahim, was expected to address the protesters, about one week after he took refuge in the Turkish Embassy amid allegations he sodomized an aide.
The chairman of a party supporting the government, Abdul Azeez Abdul Rahman, accused Anwar of manipulating the public.
He says Anwar should stop holding mass rallies for personal reasons, such as denouncing the police report that was lodged against him for committing sodomy.
The country's inspector general announced plans to bring in the military to stop protests Sunday if necessary.
Human-rights lawyer S. Sivanesan condemned the threat to deploy military personnel.
"This is the first time we have seen things come to this level when the police have also threatened to bring in the army and such things. This is unprecedented," Sivanesan said. "An army cannot get involved in controlling crowds in a civilian situation. The army has no business coming in, and this is only to threaten and intimidate the public."
The rally remained peaceful through late afternoon, and only a few police patrolled the area in cars.