KUALA LUMPUR, April 19 — Student activists camped out at Dataran Merdeka here reported they were attacked by a mob early this morning.
The group, calling itself Occupy Dataran, which has been based at the iconic square since last week, claimed that the varsity students lobbying for free tertiary education were beaten up by a group of unknown people numbering between 60 and 70.
“There were 60-70 thugs, attacked our camp at Dataran Merdeka at about 2.45 this morning. Those with cameras and recording devices were ambushed and attacked.
“One person has been sent to the hospital in an ambulance,” the group said in a media statement early this morning.
The attack drew an immediate condemnation by human rights group Suaram, who noted that the incident was not the first time violence was used to disrupt peaceful demonstrations.
The group cited as an example the attack on an anti-Lynas Corp rally in George Town, Penang in February by a mob that it said was later identified as Umno Youth and Perkasa members.
“This is a stark reminder of the dirty and violent tactics used at an Asia Pacific Coalition for East Timor II (Apcet II) conference … in November 1996 when a group of thugs stormed the meeting venue and broke down the doors of the conference halls, threw chairs and verbally and physically abused the participants,” Suaram said in a statement today.
It also questioned the police inaction in this morning’s attacks, as well as in the examples cited.
The student activists have been camping out in tents, in shifts, since last Saturday when hundreds of them marched across the capital city to lobby for free tertiary education, after being disenchanted by pay-back terms and conditions over a government higher education loan scheme.
A nearly five-minute long video on the group’s Twitter account, @occupydataran, showed several groups of people milling about the encampment and on the road between the square and the historic Sultan Abdul Samad Building while being checked by policemen.
From the 3.21 minute, a group of young men dressed in printed black T-shirts are shown rushing towards another group of men, including those dressed in the striking yellow Bersih T-shirts, attempting to kick at them.
The video does not record anyone actually being beaten up as alleged, but does contain sounds of people shouting in the background. Most of the words are undecipherable, but some are clearly enunciated, such as some men’s voices yelling “Bodoh!” (Stupid) and “Assalamualaikum” repeatedly.
Several figures, including those dressed in police uniform, were seen trying to break up the clash and telling onlookers to disperse.
The Occupy Dataran group will hold a press conference at noon today about the incident.