Hundreds of police have formed a human chain around student protesters staging a sit-in on a road Tuesday after being blocked from marching to Myanmar's biggest city.

The demonstrators — who have been rallying for more than a month and gaining public sympathy — want the government to scrap a newly passed education law that they say curbs academic freedom.

They were outnumbered by police in the town of Letpadan, but neither side appears willing to back down. Security forces formed rows around the students four layers deep.

Myanmar started moving from a half-century of military rule toward democracy in 2011, but critics say the reforms that marked President Thein Sein's early days in office have either stalled or the government has been retreating on them.