brad brace

9/26/2006

General Strike in Bangladesh

Filed under: bangladesh,global islands — admin @ 6:37 am

DHAKA, Bangladesh — Riot police used batons Thursday to break up hundreds of stone-throwing protesters in the Bangladesh capital, injuring at least 50 people, police and witnesses said.

The clashes occurred in central Dhaka during an opposition-sponsored general strike to demand reforms ahead of next year’s national election.

Police beat back the protesters when they started smashing the few vehicles that were on the streets defying the strike call, according to an Associated Press reporter at the scene.

Police also stopped a procession of lawmakers from the main opposition Awami League party, opposition lawmaker Abdus Shahid told reporters.

Stray clashes were reported in Dhaka’s Dhanmondi, Mirpur, Mohakhali and Gulistan areas where police used batons to disperse the protesters, a Dhaka Metropolitan Police official said on condition of anonymity in line with policy.

The nationwide dawn-to-dusk strike has been sponsored by an alliance of 14 opposition parties, led by former Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

Most of the injured, including women, were treated at private medical clinics.

Several homemade bombs exploded in parts of Dhaka, the ATN Bangla television reported. No injuries were reported.

Similar protests were also reported in more than 60 cities and towns including in Chittagong, where operations in the country’s main sea port were largely disrupted, port officials said. Chittagong is 216 kilometers (135 miles) southeast of the capital, Dhaka.

The protesters took to the streets despite rains spawned by storms that have killed at least 49 people and left hundreds missing along Bangladesh’s southern coast since Tuesday.

Authorities earlier said that 10,000 police were to be deployed to maintain peace in Dhaka, the capital city of 10 million people, a Dhaka Metropolitan Police statement said.

The strike shut down shops and schools and disrupted traffic in Dhaka. Commuters relied on tricycle rickshaws that strike organizers allowed to operate or on a few state-run buses that defied the protest.

The shutdown came a day after thousands of activists demanding electoral reforms disrupted rail and road transports across the country.

The opposition alliance has launched a campaign of street protests and general strikes to press for its demands, a common opposition tactic in Bangladesh.

The alliance has been demanding the removal of four election commissioners, saying they are biased toward Prime Minister Khaleda Zia’s four-party ruling coalition.

The commissioners have denied the allegation and refused to resign.

The alliance also wants to play a role in choosing the head of a caretaker administration that will conduct the elections after Zia constitutionally hands over power Oct. 28.

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