Myanmar military ‘strengthens grip’

Disappearances are reported in the wake of pro-democracy protests.

Monks say they will return to the
streets of Yangon to protest [EPA]

Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Myanmar says the military is now firmly back in control of the country’s streets.

He has not been named for his own safety.

The massive stranglehold by the military continues, and it has been building up considerably.

There are a lot of troops on the streets and while this has not choked the life out of the protests it has certainly left it unconscious at the moment.
There are probably several thousand troops now round the city.

Because the military leaders are expecting some kind of demonstration due to the visit by the UN envoy, Ibrahim Gambari, they have positioned their troops on all the main intersections and all the main flashpoints of the past few days.

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The military has managed to quell any sign of a protest at the moment and judging by the way soldiers are going round the city they are preparing to face an enemy. 

They have a list of names that they are going through and a lot of people have gone to ground.

We are now getting some reports of disappearances of people.

We know at least one journalist who worked for a weekly newspaper has gone missing but do not know exactly how many others have disappeared.

After the protests of 1988 scores of people disappeared and have never been found.

No evidence has been brought forward to suggest the military carried out kidnappings or arrests but there are question marks.

Monks arrested

There are not many hopes [over Gambari’s visit] at all, the only hope people have got is that they can demonstrate and he can see first hand that they mean business, they need help, they want democracy and they want their rights.

The curfew starts this evening at 9pm local time and anyone out after that runs the risk of being shot, so it is extremely difficult.
I have been speaking to local monks and it is quite noticeable that every Sunday they go around from house-to-house collecting alms and this is the first time they have not done so since the troubles of 1988.

I spoke to one monk who said “it’s not over” – the monks are “not finished”.

Monk leaders ‘to return’

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He said most of the monks’ leaders had been arrested but he said they will return to the streets and lead the people again.

The way that people are finding out what’s going on and communicating – mainly word of mouth -means things get distorted, rumours grow and there are inaccuracies in what is being said.

The state media here is very firmly on the side of the government and it’s damning the protesters, calling them “agitators, insurgents and terrorists”.

If you look at the local government newspapers you would think that nothing is happening here.
Internet has been restricted, most people don’t have a phone at home, the use of mobile phones is closely monitored and only a handful of people have them.

Source : Al Jazeera


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