Monday, 24 September 2007

Monks lead largest Burma protest
The orange-clad monks are streaming through the streetsTens of thousands of people have marched through Burma's main city of Rangoon in the biggest of a mounting wave of anti-government protests.
Eyewitnesses said the number of monks and civilians demonstrating was more than 30,000, with some activists saying 100,000 were involved.
Some monks carried placards calling for better living conditions and national reconciliation, witnesses said.
The military government has so far showed restraint against the protests.
Monks are highly revered in Burma and any action against them would spark an outcry.
But there are fears of a repeat of 1988, when the last democracy uprising was crushed by the military and some 3,000 people were killed, correspondents say.
15 Aug: Junta doubles fuel prices, sparking protests
5 Sept: Monks hurt in protest crackdown
17 Sept: Junta fails to apologise to monks
18 Sept: 1,000 monks protest in Sittwe
19 Sept: 2,000 protest in Sittwe, others in Mandalay and Rangoon
20 Sept: 100s march around Rangoon's Shwedagon Pagoda
21 Sept: 1,500 protest in Rangoon and issue strong statement
22 Sept:1,000 march in Rangoon, visiting home of Aung San Suu Kyi
23 Sept: Up to 20,000 march in Rangoon
24 Sept: Up to 30,000 protest in Rangoon

Five columns of monks, one reportedly stretching for more than 1km (0.6 miles), entered the city centre to cheers and applause from thousands of bystanders.
"People locked arms around the monks. They were clapping and cheering," one witness told Reuters news agency.
Many of the civilians who joined in pinned small pieces of the monks' robes onto their clothing; some were in tears. Civilians who joined in included officials from the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) party, led by Aung San Suu Kyi.

A BBC correspondent in Bangkok, Soe Win, says there are also reports of protests in at least 25 other cities, including Pakokku, Sittwe and Mandalay. The British ambassador in Rangoon, Mark Canning, said Burma's leaders were now in uncharted territory. "Firstly, the demonstrations could subside - I mean, that's looking less and less likely by the day," he told the BBC. "Secondly, that we could see some sort of counter-reaction, which I've said would be a disaster, although in terms of probability it, I'm afraid, ranks quite high."
The BBC's Jonathan Head in Bangkok says it is not clear why the generals are so far exercising such restraint. One suggestion is that China, Burma's most important trading partner, is urging the generals to be cautious.
Detained leader
Two well-known actors, comedian Zargana and film star Kyaw Thu, went to Rangoon's golden Shwedagon Pagoda early on Monday to offer food and water to the monks before they started their march. On Saturday, monks marched to greet pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who is under house arrest, but access to her home was barred on Sunday, and again on Monday.
The monks have urged the Burmese people to hold prayer vigils in their doorways for 15 minutes at 2000 (1330 GMT) on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. In a statement on Friday, the organisation that has emerged to lead the protests, the Alliance of All Burmese Buddhist Monks, vowed to continue the marches until they had "wiped the military dictatorship from the land".
This will be the eighth straight day of action by the monks. The protests were triggered by the government's decision to double the price of fuel last month, hitting people hard in the impoverished nation.