April 28 - Police fire tear gas and water cannon as tens of thousands of protesters descend on a historic square in Kuala Lumpur. Rough cut (no reporter narration).
ROUGH CUT - NO REPORTER NARRATION Malaysian police fire water cannon and tear gas at thousands of protesters who converged on the centre of Kuala Lumpur to demand electoral reforms, raising the risk of a backlash against the government in national elections expected within months. Protesters also battled with police at a train station nearby, throwing bottles at officers who responded by firing tear gas rounds. Thousands of protesters who had been confronting police outside the city's historic Merdeka Square were scattered after riot police fired water cannon and then at least 10 rounds of tear gas into the crowd. The police said they had been forced to react after protesters tried to force their way through barriers and enter the square. The violence could carry political risks for Prime Minister Najib Razak if it is seen as unjustified, possibly forcing him to delay elections that must be called by next March but which could be held as early as June. Najib's approval rating tumbled after July last year when police were accused of a heavy handed response to the last major electoral reform rally by the Bersih (Clean) group. At least 25,000 protesters had converged on the city's historic Merdeka (Independence) square, where they were met by barbed wire and hundreds of police with water cannon trucks standing ready. Some media sites put the number of protesters as high as 50,000, making it the biggest since "Reformasi" (Reform) demonstrations in 1998 against then Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad.