Agam's Gecko
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
Military barricades
Burma's military rulers ordered troops into position Tuesday, as mass protests continued.
Photo: Irrawaddy

urma's ruling military clique signalled their intentions of resorting to violence to quell mass demonstrations across the country, ordering troops to take up positions in Rangoon and other cities, prevent monks from entering Shwedagon, Sule and other major temples while sealing off monasteries to prevent the monks from leaving, and moving the democracy movement's icon, Aung San Suu Kyi from her home into a prison cell at the infamous Insein Prison.

Reports from Karen National Union territory near the Thai border indicate that troops of the 22nd Division have been diverted from their Karen suppression activities and are en route to Rangoon. That division played a major role in the bloodbath of 1988.

As the ninth day of the revitalized democracy movement got under way today, word spread of the arrest of one of the national celebrities who had publicly supported the monks a few days ago. Maung Thura, a popular comedian known as Zarganar (famous for his lampooning of the military leaders) was taken away from his home around 1 am this morning. Noted pro-democracy politician Win Naing was also arrested overnight, according to friends and a Western diplomat .

A nighttime curfew has been imposed on Rangoon and Mandalay, although many people seemed unaware of the measure as it was not announced on state media. Local authorities made their rounds last night with truck-borne PA systems, announcing a 9pm - 5 am curfew and a ban on assemblies of more than five persons.

President Bush told the United Nations General Assembly yesterday that the United States would impose intensified and targeted sanctions against Burma's military rulers, their families and financial backers.
"Americans are outraged by the situation in Burma, where a military junta has imposed a 19-year reign of fear," he told the UN General Assembly.

"The ruling junta remains unyielding, yet the people's desire for freedom is unmistakable."
Unmistakable is right. Yet it seems that the United Nations are not quite united enough to send an unmistakable message to the thugs who oppress 50 million Burmese. The thugs are sending their own unmistakable message as their trucks filled with troops in full battle gear rumble through the streets to take up positions across Rangoon.

Just across on the AP satellite news feed: A huge amount of smoke is billowing from the front of Shwedagon Pagoda as convoys of large military trucks are seen on the road. Monks and civilians can be seen milling around in the foreground, but as this is raw footage, there is no explanation of what happened. On the wires, AP is reporting that the crackdown has begun:
Thousands of Buddhist monks and pro-democracy activists marched toward the center of Yangon Wednesday in defiance of the military government's ban on public assembly.

The march followed a tense confrontation at the city's famed Shwedagon Pagoda between the protesters and riot police who fired warning shots, beat some monks and dragged others away into waiting trucks.
Fighting Peacock flag
In the past several days, the emblem of the 8888 Students' Movement has been seen on the streets as thousands of students join the protests. This is the "fighting peacock" flag has been a powerful symbol for the decades-long struggle for Burmese democracy.

The authorities have tightened already stringent controls on communication, including internet access, in an attempt to prevent images and video from escaping. But enterprising activists have been able to circumvent these measures. Here is a video of students setting out yesterday to join the mass marches, carrying their fighting peacock flags with Shwedagon in the background. This looks like it could be the same street I just saw on the satellite feed. This video was recorded yesterday.

Here's another short clip from yesterday from the same source:

Swedagon attack
Photo: APTN
UPDATE: Here's a still from the video I saw a few minutes ago over the satellite dish. Apparently the billowing smoke over Shwedagon is tear gas. Shots have been fired, monks beaten and loaded into trucks. Another short clip came over the dish a moment ago with aerial views of soldiers walking through broad deserted avenues. More on the situation from BBC. AP update says about 300 monks and citizens have been arrested across Rangoon today.

Here's a map showing significant locations in the city. Both of these from the wireservice photo gallery.

Reuters graphic


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