Myanmar: Dozens of Myanmar students began a protest march in Mandalay Tuesday, vowing to intensify demonstrations against a new education bill they see as undemocratic after the government failed to meet their demands.
The rally -- which has no permission from the authorities and will see students march on the commercial hub Yangon -- is the latest protest over an education law that detractors say will curb academic freedom.
Young campaigners launched their noisy unauthorised parade in Mandalay, Myanmar`s second largest city, calling for education reforms, in a renewed challenge to the government`s legislative plans after previous demonstrations in November were halted to allow talks.
But student leaders said they had been forced to restart protests because the government had yet to meet their demands.
"We gave the government 60 days. But they did not try to have any discussion. We told them we would have strong protest if they didn`t (talk). We feel the government has made us choose this response," student activist Min Thwe Thit told AFP.
The protest will see students march in a meandering route from Mandalay to the commercial hub Yangon some 360 miles (580 km) away, stopping at provincial universities on the way.
Unauthorised protests are an arrestable offence in the former junta-run nation.
"We are not afraid of a crackdown," said Min Thwe Thit.
"We don`t have any weapons, not even a needle, so if there is a crackdown we will just have to bow our heads and face it."
Students have been a powerful political force in Myanmar`s modern history and have been at the forefront of several uprisings, including mass protests in 1988 that ended in a bloody military crackdown.
Authorities appeared reluctant to stop November`s student rallies even though they lacked permission.
This contrasts to multiple arrests at other unauthorised protests in recent months.
Students plan to take around two weeks to complete the walk and then to set up a protest camp in Yangon.
Critics of the law say it will give central authorities too much control over how universities will be run in areas like curriculum and policy, limiting academic freedoms.
They are also campaigning for other key changes, including lifting a ban on student unions and an increase in the education budget.