10/09/2007, 00.00
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Shots fired at the Chinese consulate in Mandalay, Burmese angry at Beijing

Burmese translations of statements made in the UN and by regional powers on the Myanmar crisis are beginning to circulate. Dissatisfaction with China and India is growing in the population for their role in protecting the junta. Analysts and opposition are cautious about the appointment of a minister to head contacts with Aung San Suu Kyi; some fear it might be a way to buy time.

Yangon (AsiaNews) – Hatred for China is rising among Burmese fighting since mid-August against the military dictatorship. They hold China responsible for supporting the weakened regime and keeping it afloat. Burmese translations of speeches by the Chinese ambassador to the United Nations and various other players like UN envoy Gambari, European Union member representatives and Indian ministers, have began circulating in the country in the past few days. Up to now the authorities have blocked access to all information. Slowly, anonymous sources told AsiaNews, public opinion is turning against Beijing and New Delhi “whose statements or silence allow the junta to continue its violent repression.”

The first signs of this unrest appeared yesterday in Mandalay where shots were fired at the building housing the Chinese consulate, which is protected by Burmese security forces.

According to sources in the second largest city in the country, the episode has embarrassed the government and forced it to arrest some of the guards who failed to prevent the attack.

There are no reports on any wounded or on how many shots were fired. China so far has only called on the two sides (army and demonstrators) to lower the rhetoric and avoid gestures that might threaten Myanmar’s “stability and progress.”

As a result of international criticism—the United Nations is slated to adopt a motion of condemnation whilst the European Union should approve economic sanctions next Monday—, General Than Shwe, head of the junta, appears to be taking the first steps towards the much hoped for dialogue with the opposition.

Yesterday the government appointed an official representative to have regular contacts with Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate and leader of the National League for Democracy (NLD) who heads the pro-democracy camp.

Analysts and NLD members remained cautious with regard to the appointment of retired General Aung Kyi, current deputy labour minister, as the government’s point-man. Some are concerned it might be a way for the military to buy time and limit international outrage at the violence used to disperse peaceful marches by Buddhist monks and unarmed civilians in late September.

For its part government propaganda is using state media to blame demonstrators for high fuel prices and the country’s bad economic situation. However, people believe the regime’s media machine less and less.

Despite the strong military presence in the streets, many Burmese are not giving up. Some residents say that in the former capital of Yangon people have decided not to take to the streets anymore. Instead there are rumours that a general strike is being planned in order to bring the city to a halt.


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