Thursday, September 27, 2007

Myanmar troops open fire on protesters, 9 dead

The violence escalates as the government tries to stop the protests.

From Reuters:

YANGON (Reuters) - Troops cleared protesters from the streets of central Yangon on Thursday, giving them 10 minutes to leave or be shot as the Myanmar junta intensified a two-day crackdown on the largest uprising in 20 years.

At least nine people were killed, state television said, on a day when far fewer protesters took to the streets after soldiers raided monasteries in the middle of the night and rounded up hundreds of the monks who had been leading them.

One of dead was a Japanese photographer, shot when soldiers cleared the area near Sule Pagoda -- a city-centre focus of the protests -- as loudspeakers blared out warnings, ominous reminders of the ruthless crushing of a 1988 uprising.

About 200 soldiers marched towards the crowd and riot police clattered their rattan shields with wooden batons.

"It's a terrifying noise," one witness said.


The chaos came a day after the government said clashes in Yangon killed at least one man. Dissidents outside Myanmar reported receiving news of up to eight deaths Wednesday.

Some reports said the dead included monks, who are widely revered in Myanmar, and the emergence of such martyr figures could stoke public anger against the regime and escalate the violence.

Witnesses told the AP that five men were arrested and severely beaten Thursday after soldiers fired into a crowd near a bridge across the Pazundaung River on the east side of downtown Yangon.

Shots were fired after several thousand protesters on the west side of the river ignored orders to disband.

‘Give us freedom, give us freedom!’
In other parts of the city, some protesters shouted “Give us freedom, give us freedom!” at soldiers. Thousands ran through the streets after warning shots were fired into crowds that had swollen to 70,000. Bloody sandals were left lying in the road.

Thursday’s protests followed early morning raids on Buddhist monasteries during which soldiers reportedly beat up monks and arrested more than 100.

The monks have spearheaded the largest challenge to the military junta in the isolated Southeast Asian nation since a failed uprising in 1988. In that crisis, soldiers shot into crowds of peaceful demonstrators, killing some 3,000 people.

Some reports indicate that protesters are throwing things at the military, which is not how the Buddhist monks have conducted themselves in their protests. But as the citizenry joins in, there is bound to be mob behavior as years of pent-up frustration are unleashed.

In the end, this will probably result in even greater military response, but it will also create martyrs of the killed monks, who are highly revered in Burma. I suspect many more will die before this ends.

May they find peace and freedom.

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