10/01/2007, 00.00
MYANMAR
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UN envoy to meet junta chief tomorrow

Top army brass show sign of divisions. Military try to snuff out rebellion by isolating the country: phone lines are cut; internet is disconnected, satellite dishes are broken. Opposition is also reorganizing, opting for small, dispersed demonstrations, in several points in the cities.

Yangon (AsiaNews) – UN envoy Ibrahim Gambari will meet Myanmar's junta leader Than Shwe tomorrow to try to start a dialogue between the junta and the opposition. Meanwhile the military and protesters are re-examining their strategies.

Gambari, who arrived in Yangon on Saturday, tried unsuccessfully to meet Than Shwe traveling to the new capital Naypyidaw a few times.

Myanmese sources said that the general may be in poor health, or just demonstrating his contempt for the international community.

Others believe that the delay might indicate divisions within the ruling clique, pitting Than Shwe against his second in command Maung Aye.

The bone of contention between the two is over how to deal with popular demonstrations which continue, albeit less intensely, in various parts of the country. Maung Aye is thought to oppose the use of force and to have prohibited shoot at monks. The order to fire that killed 13 protesters (several dozens according to diplomatic sources) came instead directly from Than Shwe.

After its bloody crackdown, which led to unanimous international condemnation, the army is now trying a new strategy to prevent and control protests.

In Yangon, barbed-wire barricades cordoning off the Sule and Shwedangon Pagodas were taken down but troops remain stationed near Buddhist monasteries and along thoroughfares to avoid large mass gatherings. The same is true in other cities

Many phone lines have been cut or disabled to isolate and snuff out the rebellion. Internet is down and even satellite dishes have been dismantled or broken.

The pro-democracy and monks are also re-examining their strategy—protests continue though, but are fewer.

“The government wants to give the impression that everything is under control,” a source told AsiaNews, “but we are going ahead anyway. Now, to avoid arrests or being fired upon by the army, we are organising small demonstrations of a few hundred people, here and there, around town. It’s a kind of a non-violent urban guerrilla.”

Monks and students have also set up a “joint strike committee” to organise more demonstrations. “We can’t lose this chance right now,” said one of them; “otherwise we might not get another one in the future.”

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