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Burmese Government Murders Nonviolent Protesters

I suspect the numbers of dead are higher, but the British media has done a better job covering this than the U.S. The Burmese people have suffered long enough under this repressive regime. It is my sincere hope that the progressive community rally in support for democracy and human rights! A starting point might a be an ongoing vigil at the Embassy here in town; 2300 S Street, NW.

Nine dead after troops fire into crowds of democracy protesters

· Mayhem as crackdown gathers pace on 10th day of protests
· Civilians take to streets after hundreds of monks arrested
Ian MacKinnon, South-East Asia correspondent
Friday September 28, 2007

Burmese troops and riot police battled to put an end to the 10th consecutive day of protests against the country's military dictatorship that has maintained an iron grip on power for 45 years, firing automatic weapons into crowds of pro-democracy demonstrators in Rangoon after they flouted warnings to clear the streets or face "extreme action".

A Japanese photographer, Kenji Nagai, 50, was among at least nine people killed in the fierce clashes. Thousands of protesters played a deadly game of cat and mouse with the police and troops, continually dispersing as they were attacked and reforming to taunt the security forces who used teargas, baton charges and live ammunition against them.

Fewer monks were seen on the streets yesterday as up to 500 had been arrested and many others confined to their quarters by soldiers who raided six monasteries around the capital from dawn onwards. Leaders of the National League for Democracy were also rounded up.

Pools of blood remained in monastery dormitories and stairwells where the troops had smashed in windows and doors, and beat the young novices as they lay sleeping. In some raids shots were fired and a senior abbot at Moe Ngway monastery was said to have died later in the afternoon.

The ferocity of the attacks on the monks, the ransacking of monasteries that saw Buddhist relics vandalised and gold looted, according to diplomatic sources, shocked ordinary Burmese people, who revere the clergy.

It set the tone for a day that echoed months of violence in 1988 that ended with the massacre of 3,000 students and monks in a pro-democracy uprising.

Burmese people took to the streets yesterday in protests that were more spontaneous and chaotic than those of the previous days when the monks had taken the lead, both protecting and being protected by their supporters.

Truckloads of soldiers and police were out in much greater force from early morning at strategic points around Rangoon. Barbed wire barricades blocked roads and empty prison trucks awaited their cargo as water canon and fire engines stood by.

"Clearly the military had calculated that seven or eight days of protests needed to be brought to a halt," said Mark Canning, Britain's ambassador to Burma. "I would imagine that people [the military] have gone back to the drawing board and concluded that they needed to turn up the measures further. We deplore that and think that sort of violence is going to make matters worse."

Security forces on foot and in vans toured the city with loudspeakers, urging residents to clear the streets within 10 minutes or face "extreme force", warnings that went unheeded among the crowds, who appeared not to care about the danger.

By lunchtime a large, angry mob had gathered near the Sule pagoda, a focal point of earlier protests, despite the presence of large numbers of security forces at the Buddhist shrine.

About 3,000 demonstrators sat down in the road before the ranks of riot police, clapping and chanting, taunting the security forces - who took no action at first. But then police and soldiers pushed the crowd and began firing into the protesters, wounding at least four though it was not clear how severely.

One of the demonstrators caught in the crossfire called the BBC on his mobile phone to relay the horror unfolding in front of him. "They have shot several times into the crowd," he shouted, the panic around him clearly audible. "One person has been injured. They've used teargas. The injured person has been put in a car and taken off to hospital. They've used force on us."

The onslaught scattered the panic-stricken protesters, who left sandals lying in the road. But they soon regrouped nearby and found themselves being pushed back again by the riot police. Their retreat was blocked by a phalanx of soldiers. Sandwiched between the two sets of security forces, the crowds rushed down a sidestreet, and diplomats saw and heard volleys of shots, though were unsure if anyone was hit.

Calm was restored for a time before another wave of protesters appeared near the Sule pagoda to be confronted by the military. Again the troops opened fire and another four protesters fell.

At about the same time, western diplomats reported another standoff in the north-eastern Rangoon suburb of Damway, when an angry mob came upon four army trucks packed with troops.

Surrounding by the jeering crowds still seething over the treatment meted out to the monks during the overnight raids, the troops again fired their weapons.

Other crowds around the city were involved in sporadic clashes with the security forces, particularly those who tried to approach the monasteries where the troops were still maintaining a vigil.

In the second city, Mandalay, troops also shadowed protesting monks who were baton charged by riot officers, injuring many, but there were no reports of the soldiers opening fire.

Guardian Unlimited © Guardian News and Media Limited 2007


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