March 15, 2008 / 10:02 AM / 10 years ago

Singapore arrests opposition members over protest

A demonstrator holds a placard during a protest against rising costs outside the parliament in Singapore March 15, 2008. Several Singapore opposition party members were arrested on Saturday after a rare protest outside the city-state's parliament house led to a tense standoff with police. REUTERS/Vivek Prakash

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Several Singapore opposition party members were arrested on Saturday after a rare protest outside the city-state’s parliament house led to a tense standoff with police.

About 20 protesters wearing red T-shirts that said “Tak Boleh Tahan” -- which means “cannot take it” in Bahasa Malay -- gathered outside parliament house, holding placards and shouting slogans decrying the rising cost of living in Singapore.

Protests in Singapore are rare and an assembly of five or more people requires a permit from the police.

Chee Soon Juan, leader of the Singapore Democratic Party, and several protesters were arrested outside a nearby shopping mall as they attempted to stage a rally walk from parliament house.

“We want to draw attention to these unbearable price hikes,” said Chee in front of the parliament house. “Our objective is to continue to encourage Singaporeans to speak up.”

Singapore’s annual inflation rate hit a 25-year high of 6.6 percent in January with food prices rising 5.8 percent in that month from a year earlier.

The police could not immediately confirm how many people were arrested on Saturday or what they were charged with.

According to a Reuters witness, about 10 plain clothes police surrounded the protesters outside a shopping mall and arrested them after a tense 15-minute standoff that drew crowds of curious onlookers and tourists.

Singapore defends its strict laws on public assembly citing the need for public order and safety.

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