October 16, 2018

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Teenagers bring parts of Bangladesh to a halt with bus death protests | World news

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Tens of thousands of students, many of them teenagers, have brought areas of Bangladesh to a near-standstill during five days of protests following the deaths of two teenagers killed by a speeding bus.

Bangladeshi authorities have been forced to shut thousands of high schools across the country due to the demonstrations, which saw thousands of people, mostly students in their mid-teens, block major intersections in the capital of Dhaka as they marched through the streets chanting “we want justice” and checking people’s drivers’ licences.

Police armed with shields and batons have been called in to deal with the protesters, with some reports of vehicles being vandalised.

Bangladesh’s transport sector is widely seen as corrupt, unregulated and dangerous. News that a boy and girl were killed on the roadside on Sunday by a speeding bus spread rapidly on social media they became a catalyst for an outpouring of anger.

More than 4,200 pedestrians were killed in road accidents in Bangladesh in 2017, a 25% increase from 2016, according to private research group the National Committee to Protect Shipping, Roads and Railways.

In some parts of Dhaka students occupying major intersections checked licence plates and demanded to see driver identification and registration documents.

“We don’t want any vehicles without licences on the streets. Those unfit to drive should not get licences, and we don’t want underage motorists driving public transport,” said one protester, Mohammad Sifat.

US and Australian embassies warned of significant delays as a result of the protests across Dhaka and elsewhere as many residents were forced to walk across the congested capital to offices and workplaces.

But some joined the students, frustrated at the government’s inability to tackle Dhaka’s notoriously dangerous roads.

“I support this movement and sincerely hope it will shake out corruption in the system,” Yunus Ali, a businessman, said at a busy demonstration.

Shajahan Khan, a government minister with ties to powerful transport unions, also triggered fresh outrage when he questioned why there was such an uproar over the two Dhaka children but no reaction when 33 people were killed in an Indian bus crash the day before.

There have been widespread social media demands for the resignation of Khan, who later apologised for his comments.

The home minister Asaduzzaman Khan on Wednesday promised that the government would launch a public transport safety campaign and urged the protesters to go home. “People are suffering and we don’t want this,” he said.



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