Rangoon Quiet But Raids on Monasteries Continue

Rangoon remained tense on Monday, with hundreds of heavily armed troops and riot police deployed on the streets and sealing off the leading monasteries.At least 1,500 Buddhist monks, nuns and other protesters have been arrested since taking to the streets in peaceful demonstrations two weeks ago, and thousands of other monks are being prevented by security forces from leaving their monasteries.

Raids on Rangoon’s monasteries continue. Troops from naval vessels stormed monasteries bordering the Pazundaung River, in Tharkayta Township, Rangoon, in the early hours of Sunday.


Local residents surrounded one monastery to protect the monks, and one person was reportedly killed when troops opened fire. Eyewitnesses said at least 100 monks were arrested and taken away.

Video film shown on Sunday by the Norway-based Democratic Voice of Burma showed a monk, covered in bruises, floating face down in the river.

“The greatest tragedy is that the armed forces are beating, torturing, shooting and killing the Buddhist monks, who marched peacefully and only chanted the “Metta Sutta”[the Buddha’s words on loving kindness],” a Rangoon-based senior journalist told The Irrawaddy.

“The armed forces may be controlling street demonstrations, but public anger and sentiment are still at the highest level. The people regard the action of the military government as totally unacceptable.”

The huge security presence has a stranglehold on the country, preventing any repetition of the demonstrations that brought the clampdown.

An Asian diplomat told the Associated Press that he estimated 20,000 troops had been deployed in Rangoon. Britain’s Ambassador in Rangoon, Mark Canning, put the number at 15,000.

Security has also been beefed up in Mandalay. Key monasteries have been sealed off, and military trucks carrying soldiers and members of the pro-government Union Solidarity and Development Association and the paramilitary group Swan Ah Shin are cruising city streets.

“The armed forces have surrounded several monasteries with barbed wire,” a Mandalay-based editor told The Irrawaddy by phone on Monday. “Monks have been ordered not to receive food as alms. They are already refusing alms offered by members of the military regime, so they are very short of food.”

The Alliance of All Burmese Buddhist Monks has called on the Burmese people to protest in their homes over the next three evenings by switching off electricity and avoiding government TV programs.

“We urge the entire people of Burma to show solidarity with us by participating in this peaceful movement,” a monk named U Gambiya told the BBC Burmese service on Sunday.

An Alliance spokesman said some leaders of the monks’ protests had gone into hiding.

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