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Last Updated: Monday, 1 October 2007, 16:28 GMT 17:28 UK
Monks missing as bustle returns
Reporters in Burma's main city of Rangoon have been describing the atmosphere there following the military's suppression of anti-government protests.

Their identities are being withheld for security reasons.


On Monday morning the city centre was almost back to normal, or as normal as things can be when there's a group of soldiers around every corner.
A woman passes a military vehicle in Rangoon on Monday
Despite the military presence a sort of normality returns to Rangoon

Most of the shops and temples are now open and people are trying to get on with their lives as best they can. But amid the noise and bustle of everyday life, there is one notable absence.

This city is normally full of monks, going in and out of temples, shopping on the street stalls, and even stopping for a chat in the teashops.

Windowless hall

This morning though we hardly saw any. That is because for the last few days the military has been busy rounding them up.

Thousands of monks have been arrested since the weekend and many of them are now locked up in the government technical college on the outskirts of the city - a windowless hall which has three military vehicles stationed outside.

Local people are well aware that the monks have been locked away, and they are afraid that they themselves could be next.

"I'm really scared," a woman told us quietly when she was sure no-one else could hear.

If the Burmese military wanted to silence the protesters through fear, they seem to have largely succeeded. But they know they cannot keep the monks locked up for ever, and people are waiting anxiously to see what happens next.


The hundreds of military and riot police around the Sule Pagoda in downtown Rangoon were busy over the weekend, stopping young men, padding them down and making them kneel with their hands behind their backs.
Passers-by in Rangoon on Monday
People are out, but the atmosphere is tense

Half of the shops were open but the shoppers were outnumbered by the security forces present, and all the internet cafes were closed.

People told me that they were too afraid to do anything with so many soldiers around.

They are scared, they say, because they had seen that they were prepared to shoot children, women and monks, so they felt helpless - but at the same time they assured me that the demonstrations would continue.

There are reports that the thousands of monks who were detained after their monasteries were ransacked are refusing to take food from the soldiers who are guarding them.

Church 'apolitical'

On Sunday morning, the churches held special services praying for peace and reconciliation for the country. I went to a Catholic church where a priest led a prayer for the victims of the military violence.

The church wants to remain apolitical.

The priests say that they will not call on the people to join the protests but at the same time they won't stop them either.

However, priests say they will provide moral guidance for those willing to join the demonstrations.


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