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Burmese situation grim

The Buddhist Channel, September 23, 2007

Millitary regime, agents posing as monks expected to stir violence in the coming days

Yangon, Myanmar --  The State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), the official name of the military regime of Myanmar (formerly known as Burma) has been accused of formenting violence to break up the countrywide protests led by the country's Sangha.

<< Buddhist monks march in the rain along Waizayantar road in the western Yangon suburb of Ahlone.

It has been reported that an Emergency Committee, chaired a senior general has been established to "forment trouble" in protest marches led by monks in various parts of the country.

The plan includes ordering soldiers and policemen to take off their uniforms, shave their heads and dress like monks, infiltrate the peace marches and forment trouble to break them up. The move is to pre-empt condemnation by the international community, which would be the case if the army moves in to forcibly attack the monks.

The committee have also ordered food donating groups to stop giving alms food and water to the monks. Anyone found flouting this rule will be arrested.

In an apparent "confirmation" of the events taking place, the state-run newspaper New Light of Myanmar said on Friday (Sept 21) that one Sittwe official and nine policemen were injured when protesters - "including ordinary citizens dressed in monks' robes" - threw stones and beat them up.

The protesters became "violent" and authorities "had to use tear-gas and fired three shots in the air to disperse the crowd," the newspaper said.

But witnesses told Radio Free Asia's (RFA) Burmese service that protesters threw stones only after police aimed guns at the crowd and fired tear-gas to disperse them.

For the last two weeks, demonstrations have been reported in Rangoon, Pegu, Chauk, Kyaukpadaung, Pakokku, and Aung Lan. Authorities arrested at least 50 activists in those demonstrations.

The government acknowledged using tear gas and firing warning shots to break up a protest in Sittwe Tuesday. Authorities refrained from intervening in marches Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the All Burma Monks' Alliance issued a strong statement, thanking the Burmese people for their support and encouraging them to continue opposing the regime.

The statement, read aloud to RFA's Burmese service, urged monks and the public to maintain peace and order during the protests and to "join hand in hand and continue [this] struggle until freedom and justice exist" in Burma.

"The people are directly hit by the hardship," a monk belonging to the alliance said. "If the people want to escape from this suffering as soon as possible, they must take it upon themselves. If you have fear, future generations will continue suffering under this horrible system."

"Monks may be able to endure the suffering, but as we can't and do not want to see the suffering of our devotees. We are now leading the protest. It will be good if the devotees demand their rights by standing by the monks. This chance won't come again."

Burma has been rocked over the last month by a string of rare protests against the junta following a massive hike in fuel costs in mid-August, making transportation difficult for many of Burma's impoverished citizens. Protests across the country led by Burmese monks this week drew hundreds of people in the largest show of opposition to the ruling junta in a decade.

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