11/05/2007, 00.00
MYANMAR
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Despite more arrests monks take to the streets

Since UN envoy Gambari arrived last Saturday about a hundred monks have taken to the streets in Mogok to protest the regime as bystanders applaud in sign of support. Whilst the United Nations keep meetings with junta officials at a minimum, the generals continue to arrest and intimidate opponents. Posters pasted at the entrance of monasteries call for the murder of every Buddha.

Yangon (AsiaNews) – Myanmar’s Buddhist monks continue to defy the military regime by taking to the streets for the second time since a crackdown in late September. Around a hundred monks staged a peaceful protest on Saturday in Mogok, Mandalay Division, backed by large numbers of bystanders, the Democratic Voice of Burma reported.

The monks marched through the streets praying as bystanders applauded them in a sign of support with some “escorting” them on motorbikes. After two hours police moved in and dispersed the crowd.

Last week 100 bonzes had protested without incident in Pakokku.

Some monks who preferred to remain anonymous warned that their protest would go ahead “because so far the government has not complied with the demands of the Burmese Monk Alliance made in September.”

The military regime has instead turned a deaf ear to demands for peace and democracy coming from the population, but continues its campaign of arrests and intimidation against its opponents.

A spokesman for the National League for Democracy (NLD), Nyan Win, said that three party members had been arrested since Friday.

Online Mizzima News reported that in Sittwe (Arakan state), posters were pasted at the entrance of Buddhist temples and monasteries, calling for the death of all monks and Buddhas. For a state-owned news agency, the incident was the work of “just a few students.”

Meanwhile the military authorities are imparting riot training to police and civil servants in Arakan state, Sagaing, Yangon, Mandalay, Pegu and Moulmein.

It is in this atmosphere that United Nations Special Envoy to Myanmar Ibrahim Gambari is pursuing his mission in search for “inclusive national reconciliation, the restoration of democracy and the full respect for human rights.”

But most Burmese are not very hopeful that the second try by the UN envoy will be successful.

Gambari met Sunday with Foreign Minister Nyan Win and Labour Minister Aung Kyi, who is the liaison official with pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Still it is not clear how much time Gambari’s visit to Myanmar will last, perhaps until Thursday. But he is not likely to meet junta chief, General Than Shwe. And nothing is known as to whether he has been able to persuade the generals to talk to Aung San Suu Kyi, who is under house arrest.

When he arrived last Saturday he was welcomed by pro-government demonstrations calling on the United Nations to respect Myanmar, and by the junta’s decision not to renew the visa of UN representative in Yangon Charles Petrie.

Local sources told AsiaNews that during the pro-government rallies three men who shouted “death to Than Shwe” were immediately arrested and taken away.

“In the streets there is an uneasy calm created so that the country’s image does not further deteriorate in the eyes of the United Nations,” they said, “but the oppression of our people continues in silence.”

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