Jun 13, 2008

Thousands protest fuel price hike in Malaysia

More than 1,000 opposition protesters marched through Malaysia's largest city Friday in the biggest public show of anger over the government's decision to dramatically raise fuel prices.

KUALA LUMPUR: Some 2,000 protesters marched through the Malaysian capital Friday in the largest of a series of demonstrations against last week's steep fuel price hike.

Led by the Islamic opposition party PAS, they called for Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to quit over the decision to raise petrol prices by 41 percent.

"We want to show how unhappy the Malaysian public are with the oil price rise," said Salahuddin Ayub, PAS youth chief and organiser of the rally.

"The government has forced us to the streets to demand a reversal of this disastrous policy. This is more than a wake-up call for the PM," he told AFP.
"We want the PM to resign after this unacceptable rise."

The crowd, which congregated at an inner-city mosque after Friday prayers, had planned to march to the city's iconic Petronas Twin Towers where dozens of police were stationed in preparation.

But faced with a police blockade near the mosque, rally organisers changed direction and proceeded into the crowded downtown district, causing serious traffic snarls as they sat down at a major intersection to make speeches.

"Overthrow the policy" they chanted, as they called for the destruction of the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition.

"We must support the people's rights to demand more help from the government because we are suffering from this price rise," said Siti Anisah, a 45-year-old clerk wearing a blue headscarf and traditional "baju kurung" flowing garments.

"I think there will be more protests because we definitely don't want to pay so much more. How do I feed my children? she asked.

There has been a handful of small protests organised by other opposition parties since the price hike, but activists say they are gearing up for a major demonstration on July 12 which they hope will attract 100,000 people.

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