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Police turn back monks' march

The Press Association, Sept 24, 2007

"Love and kindness must win over everything."

Yangon, Myanmar -- Hundreds of anti-government demonstrators abandoned an attempt to approach the home of Burma's detained democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi after a show of force by police, witnesses said, averting a potentially violent confrontation.

A crowd of about 400 people led by monks peacefully gave up their attempt after being turned back at two different approaches, where police had placed barbed wire barricades.

Earlier, about 20,000 people led by monks demonstrated in Rangoon's streets in what appeared to be the country's largest anti-government protest since a failed democratic uprising in 1988.

The group near Suu Kyi's house, including 150-200 Buddhist monks, had been turned back at one intersection, and then tried another, where they were confronted by scores of armed riot police.

Two monks went forward to the police lines to negotiate their entrance, but were apparently rebuffed. They then briefly prayed before walking in another direction, after which the crowd began to disperse, the witnesses said.

The monks had been carrying a large yellow banner saying that "Love and kindness must win over everything."

The heavy security presence, including two lines of police with a police truck and fire engine standing by, came after several days of a hands-off approach by authorities, who had clearly been trying to avoid provoking the well-disciplined, widely respected monks.

They are aware that mistreating the monks would likely cause public outrage in staunchly Buddhist Burma.

The monks' defiant marches have given new life to a protest movement that began a month ago after the government raised fuel prices.

By linking their cause to Suu Kyi's pro-democracy struggle, which has seen her detained for about 12 of the last 18 years, the monks increased the pressure on the junta to decide whether to crack down or compromise with the demonstrators.

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