27 September 2007

Burmese junta reverts to brutal type

Having killed up to five people breaking up protests yesterday, Burmese security forces have raided six monasteries and arrested hundreds of monks. A UN Security Council call for restraint on the part of the Burmese military junta went unheeded (no big surprise there) as soldiers smashed windows and doors and beat the sleeping monks, according to witnesses. This has not stopped thousands of protesters taking to the streets again.

Two members of the National League for Democracy, the party led by pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, were also arrested. In Rangoon, security forces have been setting up barbed wire barricades around Shwedagon Pagoda and Rangoon city hall, two of the focal points for the demonstrations. The British ambassador in Rangoon, Mark Canning, told the BBC "There are truckloads of troops in a number of locations - more than there seemed to be yesterday..."There are fire trucks, water canons positioned in a number of places - there are about three of them outside city hall. There are a number of prison vans also to be seen in certain places."

More demonstrations are expected - leaflets have been circulated throughout Rangoon urging people to come out and show solidarity with the monks. It is likely that these protests will be met with brutality on the part of the Burmese junta -- there are no indications that the military government is likely to listen to calls for restraint. Yesterday the UN Security Council held an emergency meeting. Showing its usual spinelessness a call to consider imposing sanctions was rejected by China (as not "helpful") and Russia. Instead, council members "expressed their concern vis-a-vis the situation, and have urged restraint, especially from the government of Myanmar," China and Russia have argued the situation in Burma is a purely internal matter (just like, say. Tibet or Chechnya are simply “internal” matters....)

Analysts fear a repeat of the violence in 1988, when troops opened fire on unarmed protesters, killing thousands. This fear is justified given the vicious behaviour of the junta.

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