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Thursday, 25 May, 2000, 20:51 GMT 21:51 UK
Burma anniversary galvanises opposition
Monks at the ancient Burmese city of Bagan
Buddhist monks challenge the military junta
Thousands of Buddhist monks are reported to be planning a march on the Burmese capital Rangoon to mark the 10th anniversary of the democratic opposition's aborted election victory.

According to a dissident Burmese monk, the priests intend to march up to 400 miles from Mandalay and by other routes, to Rangoon to urge the ruling junta to open talks with the National League for Democracy (NLD).


If the military uses force against the monks...ordinary people will react against the military

Ashin Khayamassara
The NLD, led by Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, has been repeatedly suppressed by the military regime in the years since its election victory.

But a government spokesman told Reuters news agency from Burma that the report of the monks' march was "a total fabrication."

Victory

The NLD swept to victory in the general election in Burma on27 May 1990 but the result was ignored by the ruling State Peace and Development Council (SPDC).

The chairman of the All-Burma Young Monks Union, Ashin Khayamassara, speaking in Bangkok, said the junta "cannot crush the monks' movement....momentum is gaining day by day."


Aung San Suu Kyi
Aung San Suu Kyi criticised military "coercion"
He added: "If the military uses force against the monks, students and ordinary people will react against the military."

Arrests

The NLD alleges that the government has arrested 12 elected representatives and 83 committee members ahead of the election anniversary.

State-controlled Rangoon Radio reported that 470 NLD members had resigned - a result, said Aung San Suu Kyi, of coercion by the military.

The more than 250,000 Buddhist monks in Burma have a long history of political activism and civil disobedience.

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