KUALA LUMPUR, June 12 (Reuters) - Malaysian police increased security in the capital to stop a planned opposition rally against sharp fuel price rises, state media said on Thursday, reflecting fears about protests gathering momentum.
Protests have been limited so far but the opposition hopes to draw 20,000 people onto the streets after Muslim prayers on Friday as public anger mounts over the price rises and the government's modest attempts to soften the impact.
Kuala Lumpur Police Chief, Muhammad Sabtu Osman, said 1,500 to 2,000 security personnel have been put on alert to stop the planned march from a mosque in a poor, mainly ethnic Malay part of the city to the iconic twin towers in the city centre.
"We will close several roads leading to the (mosque) area if necessary," he was quoted as saying by the official Bernama news agency.
Petrol prices were raised by 41 percent and diesel 63 percent in line with a global surge in oil prices, a measure that would drive inflation to a 10-year high of 4.2 percent in 2008.
The government says it will save 13.7 billion ringgit ($4.2 billion) as part of a broad overhaul of its heavily subsided energy pricing system.
Despite the rises, pump prices in Malaysia are still among the cheapest in Asia.
"The public are feeling increasingly squeezed by the rise in fuel prices of between 78 sen and one ringgit," Mohamad Noor Mohamad, a leader of the opposition Parti Islam se-Malaysia (PAS) wrote in a party newsletter.
"The government and the leaders of Barisan Nasional should bear the responsibility of the increase and they should take immediate steps to prevent the increase of other prices following the rise in fuel prices."
The Barisan Nasional coalition has governed Malaysia since independence from British rule in 1957. (Reporting by Liau Y-Sing; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani and David Fogarty)
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