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article imageMalaysian police arrest 1,400 in pro-democracy protest

By Leo Reyes     Jul 9, 2011 in Politics
Using tear gas and water cannons, Malaysian police tried to disperse some 50,000 pro-democracy protesters and arrested 1,400 opposition members in downtown Kuala Lumpur Saturday.
There were no reported deaths during the confrontation but opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim was injured during the dispersal operations and was brought to a nearby hospital.
Simultaneous protests were noted in Seoul and Hong Kong by Malaysian residents in support of the protesters. Organizers of the rally have called on overseas Malaysians for solidarity walk and protests against the government.
Protesters are demanding reforms in the electoral system after widespread irregularities such as vote-buying and other election offenses during the last elections.
The protesters have voluntary disperse in late afternoon as they proceed to a nearby stadium and to the King's Palace to present their demands
"Why is the government trying to intimidate citizens?" said Mohamad Manij Abdullah, 50, a businessman who joined the rally.
"We are only trying to reform elections and have a free and fair government," he told AFP
Several opposition leaders were arrested during the rally including Abdul Hadi Awang, leader of the Islamic opposition group and protest leaders Ambiga Sreenivasan and Maria Chin Abdullah.
Student Chew Ai Nee, 30, said: "We have to take to the streets because we have not been given any opportunity to express our demands for change... the government cannot silence us when we march."
Many of the protesters were shouting "Reformasi!" (Reforms), "God is great" and "Long Live the People."
Mukhriz Mahathir, leader of the ruling UMNO party of Prime Minister Najib Razak said the government had to act to prevent anarchy in the streets.
"We cannot allow a minority group to protest and stir trouble in the country," he said, accusing protesters of provoking the police into firing tear gas "so that they can accuse the government of being heavy handed."
According to CNN 1,600 protesters have been apprehended and around 400 have been detained.
Human rights groups have denounced the crackdown on peaceful protesters.
“This brutal crackdown on peaceful protesters is undermining Malaysia’s claim to be a moderate democracy. Mr. Najib’s government has chosen the path of repression, not reform,” Amnesty International said in a statement Saturday.
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