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Thursday, September 9, 1999 Published at 12:18 GMT 13:18 UK

World: Asia-Pacific

Burmese protests across Asia

Yellow balloons symbolise courage for the Burmese demonstrators

Demonstrations against the military regime in Burma have been held across Asia, although tight security in the capital, Rangoon, has forestalled any protests within the country.

The date 9-9-99 held a special significance for the numerologically-minded Burmese, not least because it marks the sequential anniversary of demonstrations on 8-8-88, when hundreds were gunned down in a student uprising.

[ image: Burmese exiles protest in Bangkok]
Burmese exiles protest in Bangkok
In a videotaped statement smuggled out of Burma and released in London, opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi urged more international support for the democracy movement, but played down the significance of 9-9-99. "At this moment, people all over the country have been arrested, supposedly for trying to make 9-9-99 a day for democracy," she said.

"For us, every day is a special day for democracy."


In the Thai capital Bangkok, about 400 people gathered in front of the Burmese embassy and burned the national flag at nine minutes past nine in the morning.

Students slashed their arms with razors to paint "9999" on sheets of paper and then burned them.

Others distributed yellow balloons and badges as symbols of courage.

On the Thai side of the Moei River which marks the border with Burma, about 200 exiles shouted slogans at stony-faced Burmese soldiers on the other bank.

In Australia, about 50 Burmese emigres stormed the gates of Burma's embassy in Canberra, tearing down and burning the national flag before police ejected them.

In Melbourne about 90 people, mostly Burmese exiles chanted and sang on the steps of Victoria's state parliament.

Demonstrations were also held in Tokyo and Kuala Lumpur.


[ image: Aung San Suu Kyi the heroine of the demonstrators - here in Kuala Lumpur]
Aung San Suu Kyi the heroine of the demonstrators - here in Kuala Lumpur
The Burmese capital Rangoon was reported to be quiet.

"It is abnormally calm, there is very little traffic on the roads," said one foreign diplomat.

Many people stayed at home or did not open their businesses for fear of trouble and because it was the Buddhist sabbath.

Schools, which have been hotbeds of dissent, were also closed for the sabbath.

Despite a dissident call for a general strike, public transport appeared to run normally and government offices opened.

Diplomats estimate authorities have arrested more than 100 people in Rangoon and others in the provinces in the past month to thwart the uprising call.

Those arrested included two British activists, one of whom - James Mawdsley - received a 17-year jail term last week.

Rachel Goldwyn, who was arrested on Tuesday for singing pro-democracy songs in a Rangoon market, issued a statement protesting against what she called "the genocidal regime".

"People exist without rights, all opposition to the junta is brutally crushed...there is no freedom of movement, assembly or expression" the statement read.

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