Myanmar's militaryrulers outlawedassemblies of more than five people andimposed curfews inthe southeast Asian country's two majorcities on Tuesday after Buddhist monks, studentsand other activistsstaged another round of anti-government protests.
Ten truckloads of soldiersentered the large city ofRangoon in the country formerly called Burma after thousands of monks and their supporters began marching for a ninth straight day on Tuesday at the city'srevered Schwedagon Pagoda.
Some of the monks carried flags bearing the image of a fighting peacock that was used by students during the 1988 pro-democracy uprisings in Burma, while others handed out pictures of Burma's deceased independence hero Aung San, according to Reuters and the BBC.
Similar protests were held in the city of Mandalay.
The 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew and the meeting ban were announced late Tuesday through loudspeakers mounted on vehicles cruising through the streets of Rangoon and Mandalay, the Associated Press reported witnesses as saying. The announcement said the measures would be in effect for 60 days.
Burmese dissident Kyi May Kaung told CBC News on Tuesday that she believed the measures were a sign that the government plans to crack down on the protesters in the next 24 hours.
There are reports that the government was ordering robes and planting instigators among monks, while hospitals have been put on alert, Kaungsaid.
"This seems to be following the junta's decades-old pattern," she saidin an interview from Washington. "It's building to a climax and unfortunately the junta knows no other method."
The demonstrations came despite the ruling military junta's orders on Monday that the protests halt immediately.
Government has shown unusual restraint
Again on Tuesday, government supporters drove around in pickup trucks, warning protesters over loudspeakers that the demonstrations could be "dispersed by military force," according to the BBC.
"I don't like the government," a 20-year-old monk in Mandalay said. "The government is very cruel and our country is full of troubles."
The government has been showing restraint with protesters, which some analysts have said is unusual. During the 1988 demonstrations, the military moved in and about 3,000 protesters were killed.
The government hinted Monday it will not hold back for much longer.
Monday night, the country's religious affairs minister appeared on state television and accused the monks of being manipulated by domestic and foreign enemies. Brig.-Gen. Thuyra Myint Maung suggested if senior monks do not restrain themselves, the government will take action. He did not outline what that action would be.
His words came after tens of thousands of protesters staged a march in Rangoon Monday, the largest demonstration the city has seen since the 1988 demonstrations.
Bush tightens U.S. sanctions
On Tuesday, U.S. President George W. Bush said he was "outraged" by the human rights abuses committed by the Burmese government. Speaking at the United Nations in New York City,Bush said he willtighten Americansanctions against Burma, which already include restrictions on imports, exports and financial transactions.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon also urged Burmese authorities on Monday to exercise restraint when dealing with protesters. He asked that the military junta use the protests as an opportunity to include all opposition groups in the political process.
The protest movementbegan Aug. 19 after the government doubled the price of fuel in a country that is one of Asia's poorest. The move only increased the unpopularity of the military government, which has ruled the country in one form or another since 1962.