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Page last updated at 14:44 GMT, Saturday, 7 March 2009

Police break up Malaysia protest

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Tear gas fired at Malay protesters

Riot police in Malaysia have fired tear gas to disperse thousands of people in Kuala Lumpur, who protested against the use of English in local schools.

Some 124 people were reportedly held, as the demonstrators tried to march to the royal palace in the capital.

The ethnic Malay protesters demanded a return to Malay as the teaching language for maths and science.

Both subjects have been taught in English since 2003 to improve pupils' poor language skills, officials say.

Language - along with race and faith - remains a sensitive issue in the multi-ethnic Malaysia, correspondents say.

'No choice'

The demonstrators chanted "Long live the Malay language!" as they marched through Kuala Lumpur on Saturday.

Protesters said police started firing tear gas when they tried to march from a mosque to the royal palace, several kilometres away.

"It was a peaceful march. They shot without any warning," protester Hatta Ramli was quoted as saying by the AFP news agency.

Police said they had no choice but to use tear gas, saying the organisers had agreed that there would be no gatherings or rallies in the capital.

Police added that the organisers had also agreed beforehand to send representatives into the palace to hand in a petition against the use of English in schools.

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