Myanmar democracy drive 'falters'

Protest leaders reported to be being held by the military as demonstrations abate.

    Al Jazeera's correspondent reports from Yangon on the aftermath of mass protests in Myanmar.

    There is no white flag being flown by the protesters, but it appears that their latest push for democracy here seems to have ended for now.

    The streets are back to normal in Yangon. The barricades have been removed, the pagodas have been re-opened to the public and there is an air of relaxation.

    We understand that in the last few days there have been massive pushes by the government to arrest agitators and people they consider a threat.

    We have heard that more than 1,000 people are being held in poor conditions at the government technology institute near the airport.

    Disappearances reported

    There are reports that people have disappeared, which contrasts with the government statement that the military has only killed nine people.

    Myanmar protests


    • Military strengthens grip
    • Protesters 'not afraid to die'
    Abbots tread fine line
    Bloggers tell their story
    Speaking out on Myanmar
    The monks' demands
    Myanmar's media in exile
    Protest timeline

    The social and economic issues which caused this push to the streets are still there.

    The fuel subsidies are just the tip of the iceberg. Mynamar is a country in decay. It used to be the rice bowl of Asia and now it has been overtaken by its neighbours.
     
    The government maintains it produces about 29 million tons of rice every year but says the country only needs 19 million tons.

    Yet people are hungry. The World Food Programme is trying to help about half-a-million people but is only scratching the surface.

    Many children here are malnourished. A great number don't go to school beyond five years.

    'Air of foreboding'

    There's a real air of foreboding here and such issues may come back to haunt the government in the future.
     
    Some of the people I've spoken to have their finger on the pulse and they have admitted the protests are probably over for now.

    One of the reasons is that the monks who were leading the protests, and who are so revered here, have disappeared.

    Two or three thousand senior monks have been arrested and are being held in detention.  They've got to be released at some stage. Will they come back to the streets?
     
    One of the ideas I have heard is that senior monks could be disrobed in some kind of Buddhist excommunication, making them civilians who may then be persecuted by the military.
     
    It's going to take some very brave people, who are prepared to make some big sacrifices, to take on the generals.

    It may be a week, it may be a month, it may be a year - but the people won't remain quiet forever.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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