Debilitating power cuts in Burma have pushed hundreds of protesters on to the streets in the biggest demonstrations since the Saffron revolution five years ago. Several members of Aung San Suu Kyi's opposition party have reportedly been detained.

Crowds took to the streets in the second largest city, Mandalay, to protest over power rationing that has left residents with as little as four or five hours of electricity a day.

The demonstrations represent a fresh challenge for the authorities, headed by President Thein Sein, who introduced legislation last year that allowed peaceful protests if campaigners gave five days' notice to the police.

While the protesters in Mandalay did not obtain permission, police allowed the gatherings on Sunday and Monday to go ahead. However, reports from the city suggested several members of Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy were held by the police after further protests.


The demonstrations are the biggest since tens of thousands protested in September 2007 against soaring fuel prices and to demand democratic reforms.

Three state-operated newspapers yesterday carried a "Plea to the Public" that blamed growing demand and sabotage by ethnic Kachin rebels for the supply shortages.

- Independent