09/25/2007, 00.00
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Open challenge: monks march against the armoured tanks and threats of the military junta

For the first time soldiers in uniform appear, after yesterday’s warning not to demonstrate. The international community fears a bloodbath and appeals to the Junta not to use force.

Yangon (AsiaNews) – Thousands of monks challenged the stern warnings issued by the military junta, as they began a fresh day of protests marching towards the Shwedagong pagoda, surrounded by the army and military tanks.  After yesterdays massive demonstration which gathered between 50 and 100 thousand participants, military trucks took to the streets of the city threatening repressive measures against anyone who dares to take further part in the protests: “ We are warning the monks and the civilian population to stop protest marches…. we will take measures in conformity with the law”. The warnings and threats have been carried by International press controller by the junta.

These messages however fail to explain the form these measures will take, even if all involved fear that they will replicate ’88 when the military violently attacked a pro-democracy demonstration killing 3 thousand people.

Loud speakers accuse ‘factions’ from the Buddhist world of ‘instigating the people to revolt’ and point the finger against ‘foreign forces’ whose plan it is to destabilise the country.

Since the very first protest against rising fuel prices held on August 19th the military has arrested at least 150 people, but up until now the military had not moved soldiers onto the streets.

Today is the first day that the monks and civilians march in the presence of soldiers.

Yesterday following the massive protest march in Yangon –and others in Pakokku, Mandalay and Sittwe – gen. Thura Myint Maung, minister for religious affairs, speaking on state radio threatened to take strict measures against the monastery hierarchy is they fail to stop their communities.  According to the minister these protests are the products of “destructive elements who do not want peace, stability and progress for the nation”.

The international community continues to appeal with the junta not to recourse to violence and to listen to the peoples problems.  China, their biggest economic and military partner in the region, ahs so far remained quiet on the issue.  The Beijing based People’s Daily gave large space to the junta’s warnings and threats, referring that yesterday’s demonstrations only gathered 10 thousand people.

A senior U.S. official said President George W. Bush would announce new sanctions and call for support for political change in a speech at the United Nations on later today.

U.N. special envoy Ibrahim Gambari said he was praying the generals opted for compromise and dialogue with the monks and opposition party of detained democracy Aung San Suu Kyi rather than sending in the troops.

The Dalai Lama has also expressed his solidarity with the monks and has asked the junta not to turn to violence.

The protests which began in criticism of the Junta’s raising prices have slowly become a sea of challenge against the military dictatorship.  Yesterday the monks carried banners of Buddha, but also photo’s of Aung San Suu Kyi, together with slogans which asked for “better living conditions” and the “release of political prisoners”.


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