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Aung San Suu Kyi Greets Monks at Her Home

by Kywa Zwa Moe, The Irrawaddy, September 22, 2007

10,000 Monks Demonstrate in Mandalay

Yangon, Myanmar (Burma) -- Detained pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, dressed in yellow, came out of her home, where she is under house arrest, to pay respect to protesting monks who marched in front of her home on Rangoon’s University Avenue on Saturday afternoon, witnesses said.

The monks marched through a barricade on the street in front of Suu Kyi's home while chanting the "Metta Sutta" (the Buddha’s discourse on loving kindness).

Authorities in blue uniforms, wearing helmets, formed a line in front of Suu Kyi's property. They held grey protective shields in front of their bodies.

Monks, standing in the street, chanted the sutta. A line of citizens joined hands and formed a line behind the monks.

When Suu Kyi appeared at the edge of her property, shouts of "Be in good health" and "Be free very soon" filled the air over and over again, said an eyewitness. Many women had tears flowing down their cheeks. Eyewitnesses said Suu Kyi appeared pale.

Suu Kyi had a conversation with a monk, believed to be a leader, before returning to her home. What they discussed was not known. About two hundred monks and civilians were gathered in front of her house.

A witness said Suu Kyi probably came out of her home because she heard the monks chanting the "Metta Sutta" in the street.

A column of protesting monks marching so near Suu Kyi's lakeside home on Rangoon's University Avenue was seen as a powerful symbol of solidarity. Suu Kyi, a symbol of democracy, has been under house arrest for 11 of the past 17 years.

Also in Rangoon on Saturday, a source said about 1,000 monks marched peacefully from Shwedagon Pagoda to the Chinese Embassy in Dagon Township where they chanted the "Metta Sutta" (the Buddha’s words on loving kindness). The monks made no public speeches or statements at the embassy, but again, the gesture was seen as a powerful symbolic statement.

Burmese citizens see China as the military junta's strongest supporter. After a short time at the embassy, the monks continued their march through the city.

In Mandalay on Saturday, an estimated 10,000 monks threaded their way through the city in the largest anti-junta protest so far.

Mandalay, about 600 km north of Rangoon, is home to the largest number of monks in the country and has an estimated 200 monasteries.

Unlike in Rangoon, Mandalay citizens didn’t turn out in large numbers to support the monks, a resident said. He said monks told the people not to join the protest which ended peacefully around 11 p.m.

Five monks held three Buddhist religious flags and two alms bowls turned upside down (a symbol of an alms boycott), a witness in Mandalay said by telephone.

Saturday was the fifth day since the monks started their demonstrations on September 18, one day after a deadline for the military government to apologize for the authorities’ brutal crackdown on protesting monks in Pakokku in central Burma on September 5.

Outside of Rangoon and Mandalay, about 200 monks staged a peaceful demonstration in Sagaing in upper Burma on Saturday morning.

In Sittwe in Arakan State, officials and monks of the Sangha Maha Nayaka Committee, a government-organized monks’ organization, summoned about 50 abbots to a meeting without government authorities. One abbot who attended the meeting said monks of the Sangha Maha Nayaka Committee requested the abbots not to continue protest demonstrations.

One abbot told The Irrawaddy by telephone that after the abbots rejected the request, the monks from the Sangha Maha Nayaka organization urged the abbots to hold peaceful protest demonstrations. The abbot said the gathered monks formed a committee to organize protests in the coming days.

On Thursday, The Federation of All Burma Young Monks Unions called on students and civilians to join hands with monks in public demonstrations against the military regime which has ruled the country for almost 20 years.

The group said in a statement, “It is time for the Burmese people to work with monks and courageously demonstrate their genuine aspirations.”

In the demonstrations, students should lift their own "fighting peacock flag," a symbol of struggle against the military regime, the statement said.

Meanwhile, the military government has increased security forces throughout the country.

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