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September 29, 2007
Saffron Revolution Faltering after Violent Crackdown
It appears that the pro-reform protestors in Myanmar are going to have to regroup to fight another day. The military junta's crackdown has apparently succeeded in driving protestors from the streets:
Myanmar’s armed forces appeared to have succeeded today in sealing tens of thousands of protesting monks inside their monasteries, but they continued to attack bands of civilian demonstrators who challenged them in the streets of the main city, Yangon. Yesterday, government troops surrounded the monasteries in order to keep the Buddhist monks from leading street protests against the repressive regime. This apparently took much of the spirit out of the pro-reform movement. No doubt the prospect of authorities firing into crowds also had an impact.
Witnesses and diplomats reached by telephone inside Myanmar said troops were now confronting and attacking smaller groups of civilians around the city, sometimes running after them through narrow streets, sometimes firing at protesting groups.
“Today has been quieter than previous days, meaning far fewer protesters came out, but the military is being very quick to use violence, tear gas, guns and clubs to break it up,” said the chief diplomat at the United States Embassy, Shari Villarosa.
CNN is reporting that Prime Minister Gordon Brown of Great Britain believes the death toll is much higher than the official figure of 10:
Brown made his comments, AP said, after telephone discussions with President Bush and Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao. Brown's office refused to supply any estimates, the agency added, as UK diplomatic staff in the country were not certain of events beyond Yangon. China hasn't done much to restrain their client government from using deadly force on protestors. And it seems clear that the brutality has worked - at least for now. Thousands have been arrested and diplomats are urging the government to allow the Red Cross access to the prisoners so that they don't up and "disappear" as has happened in the past.
Witnesses told CNN that police opened fire on crowds to disperse demonstrators, resulting in fatalities. Other sources said they had spoken to a Western witness who had seen up to 35 bodies in the streets.
AP also reported some dissident groups putting the number killed as high as 200. CNN could not independently verify the claims.
Round one apparently has gone to the government. How soon the pro-reform movement can regroup and start again is open to question.