Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Oxford Analytica on Bangladesh's Student Uprising

BANGLADESH: Students protest against troop presence

BANGLADESH: Student protests spread from Dhaka to Chittagong and Kushtia today, after clashes with police at Dhaka University yesterday left several injured. According to local media reports, protests erupted after a dispute involving soldiers and students at a football match on the university campus in the capital.

It is the first serious outbreak of violence since January, when a military-backed caretaker government was installed after the postponement of general elections. Emergency rule has been in place ever since, including a ban on protests. A vigorous anti-corruption campaign and the prospect of an overhaul of the political system under the new government meant that it earned support domestically and overseas.

However, signs of weakness within the government -- in its handling of the recent floods, for example -- are causing frustration and there are concerns about the prospect of extended military rule. Students are demanding the withdrawal of troops from the campus and they burnt effigies of army chief General Moeen U Ahmed.

The government is increasingly unpopular, but is only set to become more so as it adopts more authoritarian tactics. There is a danger that the military will assume direct power, although there is considerable international pressure on Dhaka to proceed towards timely elections.

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