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First curfew ends in tense Burma


Written on 9:09 PM by yahoo

First curfew ends in tense Burma
Buddhist monks march in Yangon, Burma (25.09.07 - image released by the Democratic Voice of Burma)
Monks have called for political prisoners to be freed

The first night of a dusk-to-dawn curfew has passed in Burma's two largest cities, Rangoon and Mandalay.

Burma's military rulers are now waiting to see if defiant protesters attempt to continue a series of escalating anti-government demonstrations.

A ban is in force on groups of more than five people, and armed troops have been deployed on the streets.

Overnight, authorities arrested two prominent democracy campaigners who had been supporting the protests.

U Win Naing, 70-year-old a veteran democracy activist has been detained, his wife told the BBC, along with a popular Burmese film comedian, Zaganar.

At the weekend Zaganar and other local celebrities arranged a special meal for the protesting monks as a way of showing their support.

Vow to continue

Reports early on Wednesday said truckloads of soldiers and riot police arrived at a number of major monasteries in Rangoon where recent protests have taken place.

The restriction on gathering in public, and the night-time curfew, will stay in place for 60 days, officials say.

Map of Burma and close up of Rangoon
1. Shwedagon Pagoda. Tens of thousands of protesters, led by monks, gathered for the march
2.Sule Pagoda. Students joined the protest, passing by city hall

BBC South Asia correspondent Jonathan Head says the feared military response to what has become a mass uprising against Burma's rulers has drawn closer, with the deployment of armed troops at some of the focal points for the recent protests.

State TV has repeated warnings to Burma's people not to join the demonstrations, and to the Buddhist monks not to meddle in politics.

But monks led tens of thousands of people through Rangoon and other towns on Tuesday for an eight day of protests, calling for democracy and an end to military repression.

Joining them were workers, actors and politicians from the opposition National League for Democracy party led by Aung San Suu Kyi, who remains under house arrest.

Some chanted "we want dialogue" while others simply shouted "democracy, democracy".

People were also carrying flags, including some bearing the image of a fighting peacock used by students during the 1988 pro-democracy uprising, witnesses say.

Students were also openly marching, whereas during earlier demonstrations they had simply formed a chain and clapped.

The young monks leading this movement have vowed to keep up their protests, but our correspondent says that now looks certain to put them on a collision course with the army.

Restraint urged

The junta, which repressed the 1988 protests by killing some 3,000 people, finally broke its silence over the mounting protests late on Monday, saying it was ready to "take action".

15 Aug: Junta doubles fuel prices, sparking protests
5 Sept: Troops injure several monks at a protest in Pakokku
17 Sept: The junta's failure to apologise for the injuries draws fresh protests by monks
18-21 Sept: Daily marches by monks in Burmese cities gradually gather in size
22 Sept: 1,000 monks march to the home of Aung San Suu Kyi in Rangoon
23 Sept: Up to 20,000 march in Rangoon
24 Sept: New Rangoon march draws at least 50,000 and 24 other towns join in

Speaking at the UN General Assembly in New York, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged Burma's military to show restraint in the face of the rising tide of protests.

President Bush announced a tightening of existing US economic sanctions against the military regime there.

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

Earlier, close ally China called for stability and the EU also urged the junta to show restraint and launch a process of real political reform.

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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