YANGON, Myanmar -- Soldiers and police took control of the streets Friday, firing warning shots and tear gas to scatter the few pro-democracy protesters who ventured out as Myanmar's military junta sealed off Buddhist monasteries and cut public Internet access.
On the third day of a harsh government crackdown, the streets were empty of the mass gatherings that had peacefully challenged the regime daily for nearly two weeks, leaving only small groups of activists to be chased around by security forces.
Thousands of monks had provided the backbone of the protests, but they were besieged in their monasteries, penned in by locked gates and barbed wire surrounding the compounds in the two biggest cities, Yangon and Mandalay. Troops stood guard outside and blocked nearby roads to keep the clergymen isolated.
Many Yangon residents seemed pessimistic over the crackdown, fearing it fatally weakened a movement that began nearly six weeks ago as small protests over fuel price hikes and grew into demonstrations by tens of thousands demanding an end to 45 years of military rule.
The corralling of monks was a serious blow. They carry high moral authority in this predominantly Buddhist nation of 54 million people and the protests had mushroomed when the clergymen joined in.
"The monks are the ones who give us courage. I don't think that we have any more hope to win," said a young woman who had taken part in a huge demonstration Thursday that broke up when troops shot protesters. She said she had not seen her boyfriend and feared he was arrested.James: Despite this news of fading hope we know that things will change one day for the Burmese people. We take refuge in the Dharma which involves realization and a deep understanding of impermanence. The impermanence of the situation in Burma is evident on so many levels and the crackdowns remind those of us who live in better situations to not take that reality for granted, for it will indeed disappear one day. All is impermanent so now is the time to find peace within, so that just like these monks, nothing will keep us down or terrorize us with fear.
MONKS BEATEN, TORTURED AND KILLED:
Eye witnesses said that numerous monasteries were raided on Friday with reports that many monks were beaten and arrested. Whole monasteries were reported to have been trashed with blood and broken glass seen everywhere.
An unconfirmed account had it that a monastery at an obscure neighborhood of Yangon, called Ngwe Kyar Yan (on Wei-za-yan-tar Road, Yangon) was raided early in the morning of Sept 28, 2007.
A troop of "lone-tein" - the local name for the riot police which comprises mainly of paid thugs and protected by the military, attacked the monastery with 200 monks studying there.
They systematically rounded up all the monks and ordered them to line up. Then, one after another, brute force was used to push their heads against the brick wall of the monastery, in many cases crushing the monks' skulls.
One by one, the non-resisting monks fell to the ground, screaming in pain. The "lone-teins" then tore off the red robes from the monks, threw the bodies into the military trucks (like rice bags) and taken away to an unknown location.
The head monk of the monastery, who was tied up in the middle of the monastery was tortured and bludgeoned. He was said to have died later in the same day.James: Despite this awful news I would imagine that those monks (and citizens) who gave their lives are well on their way to Buddhahood.I am making a statement of support and sympathy for the heroic efforts of the Buddhist Monks, Nuns, Students, and all the Burmese Laypeople who are peacefully protesting against the injustice and oppression of the present government of Myanmar.
I have always held the Sangha in Burma with great respect. I ask the present government to listen to the Sangha and to seek a way of reconciliation in accord with the Dhamma which will be for the welfare and happiness of all.
I send all my blessings to the peaceful protesters and my compassion to the Government of Myanmar which has strayed so far from the wisdom and compassion of the Lord Buddha.
~Peace to all beings~