Monks demand freedom in rare Myanmar protest

Last Updated: Tuesday, November 15, 2011 - 16:22

Yangon: Five monks staged a rare protest in
army-dominated Myanmar Tuesday, witnesses said, drawing a crowd of about 500 people with calls for peace and the immediate release of political prisoners.

The monks locked themselves in a building on a religious
compound in the central town of Mandalay and were using
loudspeakers to spell out their demands a day after an
expected amnesty for political prisoners failed to
materialise.

The protesting monks unfurled banners in English and
Burmese reading, "We want freedom", "Free all political
prisoners" and "Stop civil war now" -a reference to the
decades-long conflict between the army and ethnic minorities.

A Myanmar government official confirmed the protest was
taking place, telling AFP that the five monks were from
Yangon, not Mandalay.

"Local monks are trying to negotiate with them to solve
the problem," he said.

No police had arrived at the scene yet, a witness said,
adding that a large group of people, including many monks,
were sitting on the ground outside the compound and "listening
peacefully" to the protest.

The five demonstrators claimed they had enough food and
water to stay inside the building for three days.

Demonstrations by monks are extremely rare in the
repressive state, and mass protests led by clergy in 2007 were
brutally quashed, with the deaths of at least 31 people and
the arrests of many monks.

The release of all of the country`s prisoners of
conscience, whose exact numbers remain unclear, is one of the
major demands of Western nations which have imposed sanctions
on Myanmar.

Authorities had been expected to release some political
detainees yesterday before President Thein Sein attends a
meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)
regional bloc later this week in Indonesia.

But officials said the move was put off at short notice
by the powerful National Defence and Security Council.

PTI



First Published: Tuesday, November 15, 2011 - 16:22

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