KUALA LUMPUR // More than 60 people including minors were placed in custody after Malaysian police violently put down a mass street protest against a law that allows for indefinite detention without trial. Opposition activists say the government's high-handed response underscores their concerns that the prime minister Najib Razak will not fulfil his promises to protect civil liberties. Police used tear gas and chemical-laced water on Saturday to disperse an estimated 20,000 people in downtown Kuala Lumpur who were protesting the nation's Internal Security Act.
Almost 600 people were arrested in the protest, the country's biggest in nearly two years. Most of them were released, but 63 remained in custody, said the Kuala Lumpur police chief Muhammad Sabtu Osman. He said they were being investigated for illegal assembly - an offence punishable by up to a year in prison and a fine. Opposition lawyer Latheefa Koya said those held included three boys aged 13, 16 and 17. She said the 16-year-old is the son of someone detained without trial for eight years under the security law.
"It is clear that nothing has changed in this country," the opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim said in a posting on his blog on Sunday. "Whenever there is a peaceful assembly, the police are used by the elite powers ... to prevent the people from expressing their views." Mr Najib said the protest was "unnecessary and only caused hardship to the people" as the government had already pledged to review the controversial law. * AP