27 September, 2007

Myanmar junta intensifies crackdown

Beginning the second day of their crackdown on nationwide protests in Myanmar before dawn today, security forces raided at least two Buddhist monasteries, beating and arresting dozens of monks, according to reports from the capital, Yangon.

Facing its most serious challenge since taking power in 1988, the ruling junta is attempting to contain the uprising by tens of thousands of monks who have been at the heart of more than a week of huge demonstrations against economic hardships and the political repression of the military junta.

Media reports said demonstrators were given an ultimatum by the military to disperse within ten minutes or face extreme action.

Speaking from a hotel 19 floors above the face-off, Johan Hallenborg, a Swedish embassy official in Yangon, told CNN the protesters in the country's biggest city were dispersing, as military trucks filled with soldiers rolled through the streets shouting through megaphones.

"From what we've seen, the main avenue is now empty," he said.

Meanwhile, witnesses told CNN's Dan Rivers that security forces were firing warning shots and tear gas near two major pagodas in Yangon's city center.

Christopher Hill, US Assistant Secretary of State, in Beijing for talks on dismantling North Korea’s nuclear programme, called for the junta to exercise restraint and pressed China to help stop the crackdown on protesters.

”I think all countries need to use all the influence that they have. I think every country has some influence with Burma, and I think China is certainly one of those,” he told reporters.

In its strongest words on the upheaval to date, China on Thursday publicly urged restraint.

”As a neighbour China is extremely concerned about the situation in Myanmar (Burma),” Jiang Yu, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman told reporters in Beijing. ”We hope all sides in Myanmar will maintain restraint and properly handle problems so they do not become more complicated or escalate and effect Myanmar’s stability or the peace and stability of the region.”

She refused to condemn or acknowledge the deaths of peaceful protesters during the crackdown but did condemn ”numerous untruthful reports” from international media that ”defamed” China for its role in Burma.

Malaysian Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar said in New York yesterday that Malaysia did not believe in imposing economic sanctions on Myanmar as they would usually hurt ordinary citizens.

The minister was commenting on calls by certain countries that economic sanctions be effected against Myanmar for alleged human rights abuses and its relatively slow process towards democracy.

The head of Myanmar's information agency has lauded Malaysia's stand to reject calls for economic sanctions on his country.

WARNING, WARNING, WARNING:

In the last week Burma has seen unprecedented history unfold with the protests 100,000 people strong led by Burmese Buddhist monks, sparked by the fuel increase last month. The military regime have responded that they will take action if their rules and regulations aren't adhered to. The SPDC has declared Rangoon a restricted area, applied a curfew from 9pm to 5am and reinstated the rule forbidding gatherings of more than 5 people. Witnesses have reported monks being beaten by police and the use of tear gas near Shwedagon Pagoda. Late yesterday shots were fired to disperse monks, and it's estimated that 3 monks have been killed.

If you are thinking about travel to Burma, please contact your country's foreign affair department and seek further advice.

For more information on the events unfolding in Burma, please click here to go to our People Power page. We are updating with news as it occurs.

From: Voices of Burma

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