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Shots fired on Myanmar protest
Protesters return to streets as activists say nearly 200 killed in crackdown so far.
Last Modified: 28 Sep 2007 15:06 GMT
The crackdown in Myanmar has sparked condemnation around the world [Reuters]

Reports from Myanmar say government troops have opened fire on a crowd of about 1,000 protesters in the city of Yangon as the country's military rulers continue to crack down on anti-government demonstrations.

 

Earlier on Friday, the 11th day of protests, witnesses said government troops had surrounded or occupied several Buddhist monasteries.

The move has led to speculation that the government may be trying to isolate Buddhist monks who have led the recent wave of protests while it focuses on hunting down other dissidents.

 

Thousands have joined in protests in Rangon, the country's biggest city.

Myanmar's state-run media has said that at least nine people were killed during protests on the streets of Myanmar's main city, Yangon, on Thursday.

 

However, activists on the ground in Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, are reporting a death toll of nearly 200 since the government crackdown began on Wednesday, with several hundred more wounded.

 

Hundreds of others are reported to have been arrested, many of them beaten or seized from their homes in overnight raids.

 

Al Jazeera's correspondent in Myanmar says that the protests are now largely made up of students instead of monks.

 

"Some people have been trying to provoke the army, but older protesters have been trying to calm them down and not provoke soldiers."

 

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He says there is evidence that the protests are organised.

 

"People giving out water and medical supplies on the streets, keeping watch for soldiers."

 

The correspondent also says that the authorities have been photgraphing and filming protesters.

 

This has "raised speculation that the authorities wanted the protests to go on for four to five days, let all the protesters come out, be identified and then move in to round them up."

The news comes as the Association of South-East Asian Nations (Asean), in unusually strong language against a fellow member state, expressed "revulsion" at the crackdown by Myanmar's military rulers.

 

Shots fired

 

Among those confirmed killed on Thursday was Kenji Nagai, a Japanese news photographer who some witnesses say was shot at point-blank range as he raised his camera.

 

Myanmar protests


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In Video: Life under military rule

Monks leading the demonstrations in Yangon and around Myanmar have said they will continue with protests despite the crackdown.

 

One monk, Uppekha, speaking to Al Jazeera from a monastery in the northern city of Mandalay, said he planned to join fresh demonstrations on Friday afternoon.

 

"We will ask the entire people and monks to join our demonstration," he said, adding that several protests had been planned around the city.

 

Uppekha, a member of the All Burma Buddhist Monks Alliance, one of the groups that has led the recent wave of protests, said police in Mandalay had also fired warning shots on demonstrators on Thursday, although he was not aware of anyone being hit.

 

The news comes amid indications that the Myanmar government was stepping up its efforts to shut down communications with the outside world and prevent news of the crackdown leaking out.

 

At least one hotel housing foreign journalists has been raided, internet cafes have been closed and scores of phone lines and private internet connections cut.

 

On Thursday witnesses reported people with cameras or mobile phones were being beaten by security forces.

 

Internet cut

 

Blogs and underground journalists working for exiled media groups have been a key source of information on the escalating protests in tightly controlled Myanmar.

 

Myanmar's state-run media has been blaming external forces, including several foreign media organisations, for plotting to destabilise the country.

 

The protests were triggered by a sudden massive hike in the price of fuel last month and have escalated into the biggest challenge to Myanmar's military rulers in almost two decades.

 

An uprising by students and pro-democracy activists in 1988 was brutally crushed by the military, leaving an estimated 3,000 people dead.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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