Thousands protest for 7th day against Burma's junta
Thousands of Buddhist monks demonstrated against the military junta in Burma for a seventh day on Sunday and were joined by thousands of civilians, who shouted their support for jailed pro-democracy leader Aung Sung Suu Kyi.
About 5,000 monks marched from the famous Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon to the nearby Sule Pagoda before passing the U.S. Embassy, witnesses said.
The protests, which began in Augustafter the government raised fuel prices, have so far been led by Suu Kyi's party faithful and other activists, but have continued to grow with the support of monks over the past week.
On Saturday, about 10,000 monks rallied to the cause in Mandalay in central Burma, also known as Myanmar. Suu Kyi greeted more than 500 monks who were unexpectedly allowed to pass a roadblock and gather outside her home.
The marchers chanted for around five minutes before she and two other women stepped out of a side door of her home, one witness said.
Unable to hold back her tears, Suu Kyi waved to the monks and their supporters as they paused outside the gates to chant prayers for peace.
The 62-year-old Nobel Peace Prize laureate has spent nearly 12 of the past 18 years under house arrest.
On Sunday, about 10,000 supporters followed the monks in Rangoon, forming a human chain along the route as protection.About 150 nuns joined the march.
Another 300 monks held a prayer vigil in a town in Magway, north of Rangoon.
Burma's military rulers have rarely hesitated to use force to put down dissent, but this time the regime seems fearful of the public's reaction if it deals too harshly with the monks, said Ko Aye Chan Naing with the group Democratic Voice of Burma.
"It's a dilemma for the government. If they use violence, that will obviously escalate the demonstrations," he said. "If they don't crack down, that will also increase the demonstrations."
The current government came to power in 1988 after brutally suppressing mass pro-democracy demonstrations.
With files from the Associated Press