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Last Updated: Wednesday, 26 September 2007, 13:19 GMT 14:19 UK
Burmese riot police attack monks
Monks march through central Rangoon flanked by civilians

Thousands of Burmese Buddhist monks and other protesters have been marching in Rangoon despite a crackdown that has reportedly killed at least one monk.

Monks' shaved heads stained with blood could be seen at the Shwedagon Pagoda where police charged against protesters demanding the end of military rule.

Some marchers started for the city centre while others headed for the home of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Security forces reportedly ringed six monasteries on the ninth day of unrest.

This is a battle of wills between Burma's two most powerful institutions, the military and the monk-hood, and the outcome is still unclear, the BBC's South East Asia correspondent, Jonathan Head, reports.

Key locations of Rangoon democracy protests

Hospital sources in Rangoon told the BBC that at least one monk had been killed and that two others were in intensive care.

The monks were beaten with the back of rifles. Taxi drivers are transporting the injured to nearby medical facilities, said the source, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Other reports differ on the number killed with a monastery official telling Reuters news agency two monks had died while Burmese officials told AFP three monks had been killed.

Analysts fear a repeat of the violence in 1988, when troops opened fire on unarmed protesters, killing thousands.

The UN Security Council has called a meeting for 1900 GMT on Wednesday to discuss the clashes, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said.

Earlier, UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown called for talks with a view to sending an envoy to the country. He vowed there would be "no impunity" for human rights violators.

'Human shield'

A clampdown on the media by Burma's military government, which has banned gatherings of five people or more and imposed a night-time curfew, makes following the exact course of the protests difficult.

It is known that several thousand monks and opposition activists moved away from Shwedagon Pagoda, heading for Sule Pagoda in the city centre.

They are marching down the streets, with the monks in the middle and ordinary people either side - they are shielding them, forming a human chain
Unnamed eyewitness quoted by Reuters

Reports suggest they were prevented from reaching it but other demonstrators did gather at Sule to jeer soldiers.

Troops responded by firing tear gas and live rounds over the protesters' heads, sending people running for cover.

Monks marching to the home of Aung San Suu Kyi reportedly urged civilians not to join them.

"We monks will do this, please don't join us, don't do anything violent," they were quoted by AFP as saying.

One witness quoted by Reuters said civilians were shielding the marching monks.

"They are marching down the streets, with the monks in the middle and ordinary people either side - they are shielding them, forming a human chain," the witness said.

Police with rifles

At Shwedagon Pagoda, riot police charged against the protesters, leaving a number of monks and nuns covered in blood, some of them apparently seriously injured.

British embassy sources say at least 100 monks were beaten and arrested. Demonstrators were dragged away in trucks.

One BBC News website reader in Rangoon says armed and plainclothes police can be seen at key sites across the city. At City Hall, police are holding photos of the monks leading the protests, the reader says.

Two prominent dissidents, U Win Naing and popular comedian Zaganar, were arrested overnight.

'Different situation'

The protests were triggered by the government's decision to double the price of fuel last month, hitting people hard in the impoverished nation.

Aung Naing Oo, a former student leader who was involved in the 1988 uprising and who now lives in exile in the UK, believes the junta cannot stop the protesters.

"There was only very little information about the killings. Now with the internet and the whole world watching I think it's a totally different story... monks are highly revered in the country."

US President George W Bush has announced a tightening of US economic sanctions against Burma.

The US already has an arms ban on Burma, a ban on all exports, a ban on new investment and a ban on financial services.


Are you in Burma? How have you been affected by the current situation? What is the mood like in the country? Send us your comments and experiences.

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