YANGON, Myanmar (AP) -- Myanmar's government on Thursday accused students who are protesting against state educational policies of being manipulated by groups seeking to destabilize the country.
A special announcement by the Government Information Committee broadcast on the evening state television news said some political organizations are behind recent student protests, but did not identify them. It called on the public to cooperate, reminding them of past instability due to riots.
Public support has been growing for hundreds of students who on Jan. 20 began a peaceful march of several hundred miles (kilometers) from the central city of Mandalay to Yangon seeking to change an education law passed last year. They say the law fails to give autonomy to universities and does not allow the formation of student unions.
Talks started by the government with the students this week were suspended over a disagreement about how many students could attend.
The march has attracted the support of growing numbers of students and Buddhist monks. It also has many supporters among the opposition National League for Democracy party of Aung San Suu Kyi, which is expected to make a strong challenge to the military-backed government of President Thein Sein in elections set for later this year.
The threat of an expanded protest is sensitive in Myanmar, in part because students were at the forefront of pro-democracy protests in 1988 that were brutally crushed by the military.
"The announcement is typical of the regime. The previous military regime also used these tactics to discredit protesters," Min Thwe Thit, a member of the All Burma Federation of Students' Union, said by phone from Taungdwingyi, about 210 miles (350 kilometers) north of Yangon, where the protesters were stopped for the night. He said the group viewed the announcement as a threat to their action.
Min Thwe Thit denied that any particular groups or individuals were sponsoring the protesters, adding that, "We have full support from the public."