September 26, 2007


Burma: Inside the saffron revolution: Death, confusion and worldwide outrage as the crackdown begins (Andrew Buncombe, Asia Correspondent and Peter Popham in Bangkok, 27 September 2007, Independent)

The inevitable happened sometime before noon.

Close to the Shwedagon pagoda, the golden gleaming monument in central Rangoon that has been the focus of protest for nine days, at least 10 monks were beaten up by police as thousands once again defied the authorities and tried to enter the holy shrine. Next, the police fired tear gas at them, and scores of the men in saffron robes were arrested and dragged away. From then on things only got worse.

By last night up to eight monks and civilians had, according to differing reports, been killed as the military regime finally resorted to violence to put down the soaring challenge to its rule. [...]

Despite the calls for restraint, yesterday's violent turn of events was, many believed, bound to happen. If anything they appeared all the more awful because of the slow, sliding inevitability. Overnight the authorities had moved in to arrest key democracy activists, among them a Burmese comedian called Zaganar and U Win Naing, a veteran opposition member. The comedian had been part of a group providing food and supplies to the monks.

But if anything there was even more defiance and determination as the demonstrators marched for the ninth successive day – once again with at least 100,000 people taking to the streets. In Mandalay, at least 10,000 people marched and reports from the city of Sitwe, on Burma's western seaboard, also suggested 10,000 people turned out to protest.

"They are marching down the streets, with the monks in the middle and ordinary people either side. They are shielding them, forming a human chain," said one observer in Rangoon. are enough ready to give their lives to shame the West into action?

Bloodshed in Burma as soldiers open fire (Exclusive report by Graeme Jenkins in Rangoon, 27/09/2007, Daily Telegraph)

When the trucks carrying soldiers passed through the crowd, people applauded and shouted "hero!" in mockery. [...]

All day, gunfire crackled over Rangoon and tear gas hung over the city's holiest Buddhist sites. Despite the presence of soldiers outside the main monasteries, tens of thousands of monks and their supporters marched through the city. Tens of thousands more milled about on the crowded pavements offering tacit support.

Similar peaceful protests took place elsewhere in the country including Mandalay and Sittwe.

The Sule Pagoda in Rangoon, the scene of a massacre during similar demonstrations in 1988, was the main focus for yesterday's protests.

Soldiers armed with automatic weapons were lined up along the roads leading to the huge gold dome which sits at an intersection in the city centre. From a nearby rooftop long processions of protesters could be seen approaching from the north.

The red robes of the monks made a broad stripe down the middle of their mostly white-shirted supporters, walking at their side to offer symbolic protection against the bullets. Bystanders bowed down at the monks' feet.

The protesters passed under the noses of the soldiers guarding the pagoda.

A witness described how one monk stood alone in the open space before the troops and persuaded some followers to sit with him on the ground, in open contempt of the guns.

Others played cat and mouse, dashing from one side of the road to the other across the line of fire.

Later, another large group of protesters approached the pagoda from the south and advanced to within 30 yards of the soldiers.

No one here doubts that a massacre could happen at any moment. But in their anger, and their love for the monks, thousands of people have overcome all fear.

Burma's internet ban fails to halt bloggers (Daily Telegraph, 27/09/2007)
Despite an almost total internet ban, Burmese citizens are breaking through the junta's censorship to tell the outside world of their plight.

Scores of photographs and videos have streamed out of the country, with internet users finding ways of circumventing blocks on news and email sites.

The role of the bloggers and "citizen journalists" has been crucial, with only a handful of Western journalists managing to remain undercover within the country.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 26, 2007 7:08 PM

But they're breaking the law!

Posted by: Randall Voth at September 27, 2007 2:49 AM