Hundreds of riot police in Myanmar charged at students and beat them with batons as they broke up a group of about 200 protesters who had been locked in a standoff with security forces.

Myanmar student protest
Student protesters clash with security forces while trying to break a police line in LetpadanSoe Zeya Tun/Reuters
Myanmar student protest
Police hit a student with batons during a protest in LetpadanSoe Zeya Tun/Reuters

The students were protesting against an education bill they say stifles academic independence. A group of them set out on foot from the city of Mandalay more than a month ago. They made it as far as Letpadan, a town about 140km (90 miles) north of Yangon, where police blockaded them behind vehicles and barriers made of wood and barbed wire.

In November, students started protesting against the new law that puts all decisions about education policy and curriculum in the hands of a group largely made up of government ministers.

They were joined by monks and other activists, bringing their number to around 200 in the last nine days, when they started a sit-in on a road near a monastery in Letpadan. Authorities had warned "action would be taken" if they tried to proceed to Yangon.

Myanmar student protest
A student protester holds a flag as others sleep on the street during a protest against an education bill in Letpadan, on 6 March 2015Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters
Myanmar student protest
Students sit during a protest against an education bill in Letpadan on 5 MarchSoe Zeya Tun/Reuters
Myanmar student protest
Myanmar riot police keep watch during a student protest march in LetpadanSoe Than Win/AFP

The two sides had appeared close to reaching an agreement. Police said the students could march to a nearby town and then be transported to Yangon in government-provided trucks, but then demanded that the protesters refrain from shouting slogans or waving flags along the way.

More than 400 police blocked the road. The protesters, many wearing red T-shirts and bandanas, tried to push their way through the riot police, dressed in helmets and camouflage fatigues.

Some monks in maroon robes joined the students. The police then turned on the students, chasing after them with batons and sticks.

Myanmar student protest
Student protesters cheer before trying to break a police line in LetpadanSoe Zeya Tun/Reuters
Myanmar student protest
Police hit a protester in Letpadan as they break up a group of about 200 students who had been locked in a standoff with security forces for more than a weekSoe Zeya Tun/Reuters
Myanmar student protest
Police surround a Buddhist monk protester in LetpadanSoe Zeya Tun/Reuters
Myanmar student protest
Police smash a student protesters' vehicle in LetpadanSoe Zeya Tun/Reuters
Myanmar student protest
A student protester cries after a scuffle with policeSoe Zeya Tun/Reuters
Myanmar student protest
March 6 2015: Thinzar Maung joins other students talking with police officers before they are detainedSoe Zeya Tun/Reuters
Myanmar student protest
Police restrain student Ei Thinzar Maung during a protest against an education bill in Letpadan, on 6 March 2015Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters
Myanmar student protest
A volunteer treats a student protester lying on a bench after clashes with police in LetpadanSoe Zeya Tun/Reuters
Myanmar student protest
Detained student protesters are seen in a prison vehicle after the violence in LetpadanSoe Zeya Tun/Reuters
Myanmar student protest
A dog walks in front of a police line after the violence in LetpadanSoe Zeya Tun/Reuters
Myanmar student protest
Local people fire slingshots towards a police line after the violence in LetpadanSoe Zeya Tun/Reuters

After the crackdown, police were seen celebrating and shouting, "Victory! Victory!"