Malaysia: Thousands defy police threats

Reprinted from http://asia-pacific-action.org.

According to Malysian Socialist Party (PSM) secretary general S.Arutchelvan, despite police warnings to stay away from what was branded an "illegal" rally, thousands attended the July 6 all-day rally against the government's fuel price hike.

There were around 10,000 people through most of the day but up to 35,000 at night, he said. However, Arutchelvan added that many more people stayed away because the venue had been shifted from the centre of the capital, Kuala Lumpur, to a Kelana Jaya sports stadium.

Malaysiakini vox pops at the rally showed the disappointment many felt when the organisers decided to take the rally off the streets. When Arutchelvan and Kohila, the coordinator of the Housing and Urban Pioneers Coalition, JERIT, promised in their speeches to return to the streets, they received some of the biggest applause.

When he addressed the rally, People's Front (PR) leader Anwar Ibrahim challenged the Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi to a debate on fuel prices. He said that the fuel price hike had triggered a crisis of confidence in the National Front (BN) government.

The crowd, most wearing red clothes, chanted: "Reformasi! Reformasi!", "Long live the people!", "Fuel prices, down! down!" and "BN, down! down!" There was no trouble with police on the day.

On July 5, some 30,000 attended a PR mass meeting in Seberang Jaya, on mainland Penang. "I passed thru the site on my way home, the traffic jam was worse than during Expo about a month ago … The atmosphere in the air is just hot, spicy hot", wrote a passerby in one Malaysian blog.

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