Burmese riot police attack monks

Burmese riot police attack monks

Police charged the crowd outside the Shwedagon Pagoda as demonstrators met for a ninth day of marching and warning shots were fired at another site.

The new march seems to be heading towards the home of detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Police and troops are surrounding key Buddhist sites around the city.

The riot police started to beat up the monks
unidentified monk
speaking at Shwedagon Pagoda

Analysts fear a repeat of the violence in 1988, when troops opened fire on unarmed protesters, killing thousands.

In a further sign that the military authorities are cracking down, two key dissidents were arrested late on Tuesday night.

The atmosphere in Rangoon is described by eyewitnesses as extremely tense, the BBC’s Jonathan Head reports from Bangkok.

The mood among the crowds of bystanders is becoming very angry over the treatment of the monks, our South East Asia correspondent reports.

Dragged away

Up to 5,000 monks and other protesters are on the march through Rangoon, some of them wearing surgical masks in anticipation of the security forces using tear gas, Reuters news agency reports.

They are defying a ban on all public gatherings of more than five people.

At the Sule Pagoda, security forces fired shots over the heads of protesters as supporters of the monks there chanted “You are fools!”

When protesters turned up at Shwedagon, which is blocked off by security forces, police beat their shields with their batons and yelled orders to disperse before giving chase.

Some demonstrators were beaten and dragged away in trucks and dozens were arrested.

“The riot police started to beat up the monks,” one monk at Shwedagon Pagoda told the BBC.

“We were peacefully chanting prayers. They used tear gas and some monks were hit. Some monks were injured.”

Two of the country’s most prominent dissidents, U Win Naing and popular comedian Zaganar, were arrested overnight.

‘Different situation’

Aung Naing Oo, a former student leader in Burma who was involved in the 1988 uprising and who now lives in exile in the UK, believes the junta cannot stop the 2007 protesters.

Burmese armed police deploy in central Rangoon on 26 September
Police wielding high-velocity rifles have been deploying in Rangoon

“Nobody knew what was happening in 1988,” he told the Today programme on BBC radio Four.

“There was only very little information about the killings. Now with the internet and the whole world watching I think its a totally different story now and I think the other important difference is that in 1988 it was the students that were leading the demonstrations, but now it is the monks. Monks are highly revered in the country.”

The junta broke its silence over the mounting protests late on Monday, saying it was ready to “take action”.

US President George W Bush has announced a tightening of existing US economic sanctions against it.

America already has an arms ban on Burma, a ban on all exports, a ban on new investment and a ban on financial services.

The protests were triggered by the government’s decision to double the price of fuel last month, hitting people hard in the impoverished nation.

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