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Military rent-a-crowd pays 90c per rioter; 1000 people remain in custody at unknown locations in Burma

Posted by gasweek on 17 October, 2007

About 1000 people remained in custody at unknown locations in Burma since last month’s rallies, and concern for their safety had grown, reported The Australian (15/10/2007, p. 10).

Government pays people to attend rally: Tens of thousands of people had been taken to a junta-sponsored rally in Rangoon in a show of strength by the generals. The rally had denounced Western powers and foreign media, which the military regime accused of fomenting the recent protests. “Down with BBC. Down with VOA. Down with Radio Free Asia,” the crowds had chanted. Officials had said 120,000 people attended the event. Local officials said, on condition of anonymity, that they had been ordered by the government to round up delega­tions from around the city to attend, offering some payments of about 90c a person. Thousands of people remained incarcerated in four detention centres around Mandalay, con­trolled by the Burmese army’s 33rd division.

Power of Buddhist clergy broken: Army commanders had broken the political power of the 200 monasteries in Burma and shattered the Buddhist clergy as an organ­ised force. They had instituted the severest repression inflicted on the city for two decades. Troops had dragged dozens of people, most of them young, off the streets at gunpoint. Using counter-terrorist technology sup­plied by China, the security forces checked the registrations of motor­cycles against numbers captured from digital images of the protests that had unfolded from 23 September over five tumultuous days. In front of a foreign witness, they had hustled a youthful couple and half a dozen teenagers into an olive green truck with smacks and prods from the barrels of their automatic rifles. “I wish there were hundreds of foreign tourists here to see this,” had said a Burmese man, watching.

Monasteries under siege: The greatest monasteries in Burma, clustered in the southwest of the city, lay under siege. They appeared to be all but devoid of monks. The military had ordered everybody from venerable abbots to adolescent novices and nuns into trucks. They had been taken to one of the four detention centres. “The young monks were told to strip off their robes. They were hit and kicked and then sent home to their villages,” said a witness. “The older monks are kept in captivity. They are forcing the sayadaws (elders) to write confessions and promises to obey the government. Just a few monks have been allowed back to Mahamuni Paya. Most of the other monasteries are empty.” Within days, the monastic movement had been decimated. So the Burmese military defeated the only institution in a land of 51 million that had dared to pose as an alternative to its authority.

Desperate concern for students: There was desperate concern for about five students from Manda­lay’s medical university. The five — two girls and three boys — had been arrested by soldiers after demonstrations at the campus. All were from well-known, respectable families and were popu­lar figures among their peers. “Their families are fearful be­cause they have heard these kids will be charged with narcotics offences,” said an informant who had spoken to the youths’ rela­tives. This would mean that the students, instead of serving 40 days in detention for public order offences, could be sent to a notorious penal labour camp in the Hsu Kuang valley, in north­ern Burma.

The Australian, 15/10/2007, p. 10

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