Activist monks & nuns ask for a united action in Burma
By Aung Hla Tun
Sun Sep 23, 6:27 AM ET
YANGON (Reuters) – Buddhist nuns joined the growing protests against Myanmar’s ruling generals on Sunday, a day after a dramatic appearance by detained democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi to pray with monks now leading the marches.
It was one of three protest marches by monks in the city and there were at least two in Mandalay, a major centre of the monkhood, but there were no signs of trouble.
Plainclothed police kept watch, but there were no uniformed officers or soldiers in sight and people on the streets applauded as the marchers passed.
The mood was cheerful, with many people in Yangon seeing the emergence of Suu Kyi from her lakeside villa as a sign the military, which has ruled the former Burma for 45 years and ruthlessly put down a 1988 uprising, was being flexible.
It was the first time she had been seen in public since her latest detention began in May 2003 and for many onlookers, already stunned by police allowing marching monks through the barricades sealing off her street, overwhelming.
“Some of us could not control our tears,” one witness told Reuters after 1,000 monks held a 15-minute prayer vigil at the house to which Suu Kyi is confined with no telephone and needing official permission, granted rarely, to receive visitors.
Wearing an orange blouse and a light-brown traditional wraparound skirt, she emerged from a small door in the iron gate to the house, her hands held palm to palm in a gesture of Buddhist supplication.
Soldiers carrying metal riot shields stood between the Nobel Peace laureate and the prayer-chanting monks.
“Aunty Suu also prayed for the well-being of all,” the witness said.
News of the incident spread rapidly on a day when the monks marched despite Yangon being lashed by 11.54 inches of rain, the highest recorded in 39 years.
“I give credit to both sides for the peaceful outcome of this incident,” a retired government official said.
“The monks showed their courage, strong determination and discipline while the regime showed flexibility,” he said. “I think this incident has shown us that we can sort out any problem among us amicably.”
The generals are due to hold a quarterly summit in their new capital of Naypyidaw, carved out of the central jungles, perhaps as early as Monday, and how to deal with the protests is sure to top the agenda.
The protests, which began on August 19 after huge fuel price increases and prompted midnight raids to round up the democracy activists who organized them, appear far from over.
On Sunday, the monks, one of them wielding a bullhorn, chanted a new slogan: “Our uprising must succeed.”
A group calling itself the All Burma Monks Alliance for the first time urged ordinary people to join the monks “to struggle peacefully against the evil military dictatorship till its complete downfall.”
Until now the monks, fearing reprisals against civilians and to ensure the protests in Yangon and other cities remained peaceful, have discouraged others from joining the marches.
“We pronounce the evil military despotism, which is impoverishing and pauperizing our people of all walks including the clergy, as the ‘common enemy’ of all our citizens,” the alliance said in a statement published on the Myanmar-focused news Web site http://www.burmanet.org.
“Therefore, in order to banish the common enemy evil regime from Burmese soil forever, united masses of people need to join hands with the united clergy forces.”
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