Monks lead huge protest in Yangon

Monks urge sympathisers to join protests and demand talks with ruling generals.

Buddhist nuns, dressed in pink, joined the monks for the protest march in Yangon [AFP]
Buddhist nuns, dressed in pink, joined the monks for the protest march in Yangon [AFP]
Open defiance

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Along the route of the protest, witnesses reported bystanders crowding the pavements, clapping, cheering and sometimes crying as the march passed by.

Many handed bottles of water, flowers and even foot balm to the monks, in what was a bold show of defiance against the government.
Hundreds of people linked arms to form a human chain to protect the monks leading the march.
For the first time, the monks called openly for the public to join their protests and demanded that the generals sit down for negotiations to resolve the crisis that began five weeks ago with a massive hike in fuel prices.
The monks chanted: “We are marching for the people. We want the people to join us.”
Myanmar’s monks

About 90 per cent of Myanmar‘s population is Buddhist.

At some point in their lives, every Buddhist male is expected to join the monk hood or ‘Sangha’. 

Every village or neighbourhood has its own pagoda and monastery, which traditionally serves as the focus for community life and the main centre for education.

In recent years rising levels of poverty have raised demand for the free education provided by the monasteries.

One monk, at the head of the crowd, carried a small megaphone in which he chanted their demands.

He said: “We want national reconciliation, we want dialogue with the  military, we want freedom for Aung San Sun Kyi and other political  prisoners.”
Earlier on Sunday, about 300 Buddhist monks held a prayer vigil in Magway, a town about 375km north of Yangon.
Eyewitnesses said the monks protested for about an hour before dispersing.
There were reports of protests in other cities, including Mandalay.
Tearful encounter
On Saturday, the army allowed about 2,000 monks and civilians to pass a roadblock and gather by Aung San Suu Kyi’s lakeside home on University Avenue.

She greeted them from the house where she has been detained for 12 of the past 18 years.

Witnesses said Aung San Suu Kyi was in tears as she greeted the cinnamon-robed monks.
The 62-year-old Nobel Peace prize winner has become an internationally recognised figurehead of Myanmar’s pro-democracy movement.
They were chanting for around five minutes before she and two other women stepped out of a side door of her home, one witness said.
Unable to hold back her tears, Aung San Suu Kyi waved to the monks and their supporters as they paused outside the gates to chant prayers for  peace.
The monks spent about 15 minutes chanting the same Buddhist prayer they had recited through much of their earlier march in Yangon, the witnesses said.
“May we be completely free from all danger, may we be completely free from all grief, may we be completely free from poverty, may we have peace in heart and mind,” they intoned.
Media blackout

Daily protests by monks have drawn a
growing numbers of supporters [AFP]

Myanmar’s rulers have refused to tell citizens about the protests, choosing instead to fill its state-run newspaper with reports of floods and traffic.

There were no reports on Sunday of the monks’ protests.

The New Light of Myanmar prominently featured a story about General Than Shwe, the head of government, sending greetings to Saudi Arabia on its national day.

Inside, there were stories on floods, paddy plantings and efforts to prevent river erosion.
The newspaper derided the National League for Democracy led by Aung San Suu Kyi as “incompetent and seeking political gain”.
The NLD won elections in 1990 by a landslide, but the Myanmarese military never recognised the result.
Source: News Agencies


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