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Burma in shock after repression

Latest update : 2008-01-07

A week after Burma's ruling junta cracked down on nationwide protests, people are still in shock. Most monks are in hiding, and the streets of Rangoon are deserted.

Protesters across the world demonstrated against Myanmar's bloody crackdown on dissent Saturday, with thousands gathering in London and smaller actions in Sydney, Stockholm, Bangkok, Paris and elsewhere.

The coordinated displays of public condemnation followed the violent crackdown by Myanmar's junta on thousands of activists in late September. At least 13 people were killed and 2,000 detained in the clampdown.

In Britain, Myanmar's former colonial power, thousands crowded through streets behind saffron-robed Buddhist monks who threw petals into the River Thames.

Police said 3,000 people took part. Organisers put the figure at 10,000.

After stopping at British Prime Minister Gordon Brown's Downing Street offices to tie red headbands to the gates, the demonstrators went on to Trafalgar Square to hear MPs, human rights campaigners and Myanmar exiles exhort the United Nations to take action against Yangon's junta.

"Burma is not a human rights emergency of today, last week or last month. It is a human rights emergency that the world has chosen to forget for the last 20 years," said Amnesty International's secretary general Irene Khan.

Brown issued a message of support to the people of Myanmar, telling them: "The world has not forgotten -- and will not forget -- the people of Burma."

In Sydney, hundreds rallied outside the landmark Opera House. Another 1,000 marched through Melbourne, some carrying red banners that read "no more bloodshed."

Other protests took place in Perth, and in Brisbane, where organiser Natasha Lutes said: "This is about getting a message to the people in Burma.

"They've been struggling to get the message out about the atrocities that are happening in Burma, putting their lives on the line. We want them to know the world has been listening and ordinary people everywhere support them."

Dozens also gathered in front of the Myanmar embassy in Bangkok, shouting "Free Burma" and brandishing pictures of Myanmar's pro-democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi.

Campaigners in India were to hold a candle-lit vigil outside a war memorial in the heart of New Delhi.

In Singapore, a vigil outside the Myanmar embassy involving an opposition political party and members of the Myanmar community entered its seventh day on Saturday.

Amnesty International Korea said some 200 protestors, including immigrant workers from Myanmar, would stage a protest outside the country's embassy in central Seoul on Sunday to press for the release of prisoners of conscience.

In Paris, 200 people gathered at a Buddhist temple where they placed yellow roses at the feet of a giant Buddha statue.

A similarly sized demonstration occurred in Vienna, where participants wore saffron as a sign of solidarity. A union leader, Rudolf Hundstorfer, said "we can fear the worst" for those detained in Myanmar.

Brussels, the Belgian city home to the main institutions of the European Union, saw 400 demonstrators gather.

"We have to know where are the people who have been arrested, and they must be freed -- you are their last hope," one of the organisers told the crowd, which included Belgian MPs.

A union tract calling for a boycott of the French oil group Total for continuing to do business with Myanmar was widely applauded.

In the Netherlands, activists announced they had sabotaged a Total petrol station in Oosterbeek, in the centre of the country, and demanded the oil company's immediate withdrawal from Myanmar.

Some 150 people demonstrated in central Stockholm and held three minutes of silence "out of respect for all those who are suffering in Myanmar," said Fredrik Korn, a spokesman for the Swedish branch of Amnesty International.

In the United States, 100 people gathered in front of Myanmar's Washington embassy and then marched to China's. They bore signs criticising the holding of the Olympics next year in Beijing, in the light of China's reluctance to pressure the Myanmar junta over its repression.

About 100 demonstrators gathered in front of McGill University in Montreal, Canada, carrying "Solidarity with Burma" placards and pictures of Aung San Suu Kyi and demanding an end to violence.

Date created : 2007-10-08