Monks step up Myanmar protests

Activists urge the public to support the monks’ pro-democracy protests.

People joined hands to form a protective ringaround the monks [AFP]
People joined hands to form a protective ringaround the monks [AFP]
Witnesses said Aung San Suu Kyi walked out of her house with two other women and cried as she paid her respects to the monks.
The monks stopped outside Suu Kyi’s home for about 15 minutes and chanted a Buddhist prayer: “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.”

Roadblock opened

Armed guards usually block the road leading to the lakeside house, but in an unprecedented move, about 1,000 monks were allowed to march past.

There was no interruption from about 20 uniformed police who had opened the roadblock. After the monks left the road was closed again.

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62-year-old Suu Kyi has become an internationally recognised figurehead of the pro-democracy movement being placed under house arrest by the government. 

The Nobel Peace Prize laureate now has virtually no contact with the outside world, apart from a live-in maid and periodic visits from her doctor.

Hundreds of onlookers in Yangon clapped and smiled as they followed the monks on the sixth consecutive day of demonstrations, witnesses said.

Soe Aung, a member of the National Council of the Union of Burma, an umbrella organisation for groups exiled from the country, told Al Jazeera: “People have supported them since day one … especially in Mandalay and Rangoon.”

Dozens of plainclothes security officials also walked along with the crowd, photographing the protesters and filming with video cameras, but there were no reports of violence.

The protest in Mandalay was the biggest march yet, at least 5,000 Buddhist maroon-robed monks reportedly walked through Myanmar’s second largest city. Other observers put the number of marchers at nearly 10,000.
“There were several thousand onlookers on both sides of their route, giving water to the monks,” one witness s

Reprisals fear
The monks are deeply respected in Myanmar, a largely Buddhist country, and have become the standard-bearers for a protest movement that began a month ago following a massive increase in the price of fuel.
Saturday’s protests were “peaceful,” according to one witness, but more than 150 people have been arrested since the protests began, including two men said to have been sentenced to two years in prison for giving water to protesting monks.
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Relatives said the pair were freed on Friday after 1,000 monks had marched in Sittwe threatening more protests unless they were released.

Until now the monks have generally discouraged ordinary people from joining their processions for fear of reprisals against civilians and to ensure the protests remain peaceful.
But on Saturday, a Buddhist group that says it is helping organise the protests called for nationwide prayer vigils beginning on Sunday.
“We ask every citizen to join our vigils,” said a spokesman from the Alliance of All Burmese Buddhist Monks, an underground Buddhist group.

“We pronounce the evil military despotism, which is impoverishing and pauperising our people of all walks, including the clergy, as the ‘common enemy’ of all our citizens,” the alliance said in a statement published on the Myanmar-focused Burmanet website.

Barefoot protest

The protests are becoming a daily occurence in Myanmar. Monks marched in seven cities across the country on Friday.
About 600 maroon-robed monks walked barefoot through the pouring rain for six hours surrounded by ordinary people who joined hands to form a protective ring around them in the biggest demonstration.
Late on Friday, activists, both monks and dissidents, made appeals on Myanmar-language foreign radio services for the public to join the monks in protest.
Representatives of foreign-based Christian and Islamic groups also called on their followers to support to the monks.

The monks have not chanted anti-government slogans during their marches, but carried an upside-down alms bowl, a widely-recognised symbol of protest in Myanmar.


The protests have become the most sustained challenge to Myanmar‘s military rulers since a wave of student demonstrations that were forcibly suppressed in December 1998.

Source : News Agencies


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