Thursday, September 27, 2007

Myanmar: Protest Crackdown Leaves At Least Nine Dead

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.
Aung Hla Tun of Reuters reports:
The army, which killed an estimated 3,000 people in 1988, moved in after 1,000 chanting protesters hurled stones and water bottles at troops, prompting a police charge in which shots were fired and the Japanese went down.

Soldiers shot dead three more people in a subsequent protest outside the city's heart as crowds regrouped and taunted troops. Their bodies were tossed in a ditch as troops chased fleeing people, beating anybody they could catch, witnesses said.

Another Buddhist monk -- adding to the five reported killed on Wednesday when security forces tried to disperse huge crowds protesting against 45 years of military rule -- was killed during the midnight raids on monasteries, witnesses said.

Monks were kicked and beaten as soldiers rounded them up and shoved them onto trucks. Some of the monasteries were emptied of all but the very old and sick, people living nearby said.
And ...
"Doors of the monasteries were broken, things were ransacked and taken away," a witness said. "It's like a living hell seeing the monasteries raided and the monks treated cruelly."

After darkness fell and curfew hour loomed, sporadic bursts of automatic rifle fire echoed over the city of five million people.
Nice. Reuters has much more.

TIMELINE: 45 years of resistance and repression in Myanmar

U.S. demands immediate halt to Myanmar crackdown

Myanmar's people take desperate measures to survive
People in Myanmar were already living on the edge before the government doubled fuel prices, raising the cost of just about everything and shoving many over the precipice.

In a country where more than a quarter of the 56 million people live on less than a dollar a day, the sudden announcement of fuel price hikes on August 15 became the tipping point of a crisis that had been building for a long time.

For retired headmaster U Sein, 82, and his wife Daw Nu, 80, the plunge in their quality of life has been nightmarish.

"My monthly pension now buys only two cups of tea although it used to be enough for the monthly subsistence diet for my wife and me when I first retired over 20 years ago," U Sein told Reuters in May, months before fuel prices went up.

The cost of living had soared since the failed uprising of 1988, residents say, but has really rocketed the past year.
Myanmar information window closing, says dissident

A "window of information" is closing in Myanmar as the military junta battles networks of disaffected citizens by restricting mobile phones and Internet access, a leading dissident journalist said on Thursday.

The biggest anti-junta protests in two decades in one of the world's most closed states has been broadcast around the world thanks to exiled journalists in countries such as Thailand and India and their clandestine contacts on the inside.

So far, citizen reporters have managed to send information and photos across the Internet, even using the social networking site Facebook or hiding news within e-greetings cards to outwit the military government.

Pictures of marches of monks and civilians and the response by security forces is on TV screens around the world in hours.

It could soon change.

"The window of information is closing," said Soe Myint, Editor-In-Chief of the Internet-based Mizzima News Agency and a former hijacker of a Thai International Airways plane in 1990.

"It's getting more and more difficult," Myint added in an interview with Reuters. "Many blogging sites are now blocked and opposition activists have had their mobile phones cut."