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Last Updated: Wednesday, 22 August 2007, 08:41 GMT 09:41 UK
Junta breaks up rare Burma rally
Protest in Rangoon 2208

Supporters of Burma's military junta have broken up protests against the doubling of fuel prices.

About 200 people marched in Rangoon in the rare demonstration, but dispersed after a number were bundled into cars and driven away.

A similar protest was held on Sunday, the largest such rally in a decade.

The junta arrested at least 13 activists before Wednesday's protest, including some of the nation's most prominent dissidents.

Veteran leaders

The latest protest took place on the northern outskirts of Rangoon.

The demonstrators, most of them women, were cheered by onlookers as they marched in defiance of the junta's strict controls on protests.

88 GENERATION STUDENTS
Group of former student activists in Burma
Named after the 1988 uprising, which was brutally crushed by the military
Key members have suffered long prison terms

"We are marching to highlight the economic hardship that Myanmar (Burma) people are facing now, which has been exacerbated by the fuel price hike," one protester told the Associated Press news agency.

Their path was blocked by supporters of the junta and plain-clothed officers, witnesses said, and the rally dispersed as up to 10 demonstrators were bundled into cars and driven off.

Last week's fuel price rises left many people struggling to find the money to travel to work.

Sunday's protest against the move had involved veteran leaders of the so-called 88 Generation Students group.

File image of vehicles in Rangoon
Many taxis and buses did not run after the price rises

The group was at the forefront of the 1988 pro-democracy uprising that was violently put down by the military.

Seven top leaders of the group were among the activists arrested this week.

They include Min Ko Naing and Ko Ko Gyi - some of Burma's most prominent dissidents after Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.

Burma's state media said the activists had been arrested for "undermining stability and the security of the nation".

The BBC's South-East Asia correspondent, Jonathan Head, says there have been several small demonstrations since February focusing on growing hardships as the economy declines under the impact of international sanctions and government mismanagement.

The latest rallies are by far the largest and our correspondent says the prospect of economic protests linking up with the 1988 veterans would be especially alarming to the military government.

It was this combination of factors that led to the near overthrow of the military regime during that first uprising 19 years ago.

On Monday the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) warned there could be further protests and security was stepped up in Rangoon.

The NLD's leader, 62-year-old Ms Suu Kyi, has spent most of the past 17 years under house arrest.

The NLD won landmark elections in 1990 but the junta never recognised the result.




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