Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Security Beefed up in Burma's Major Cities

The Irrawaddy News

Burmese authorities have increased security in Rangoon and other cities that were at the center of last year’s Buddhist monk-led protests, according local residents.

Residents claimed that security has been stepped up due to fears of a repeat of last year’s protests against the military government, which erupted one year ago this month. Sources said that the increased security may be deployed until the end of the month.

Other major locations where security forces have been increased are Burma’s second-largest city, Mandalay; Sittwe Township in Arakan state; Pegu Division; and Pakokku Township in Magwe Division.

“Security forces are now deployed all over Rangoon,” said one resident of the former capital. “The authorities are using more forces than we have ever seen before.”

A senior monk at Bawdi Mandine Monastery in Pakokku Township said that security forces were often seen patrolling downtown and some plainclothes security guards were deployed in public areas and around local monasteries, including his monastery.

“They are worried about the possibility of protests this month because of the protests that happened in September last year. So they are preparing in advance,” said the monk. “We think that they will deploy the security guards until the end of September.”

Pakokku Township was the scene of the first crackdown on protesting Buddhist monks last year. Burmese troops tied monks to utility poles and beat them with the butts of their rifles, sparking outrage that spread to other cities.

Pyinya Zawta, an exiled leader of the underground All Burma Monks Alliance, said that security forces, including members of the Union Solidarity and Development Association, have been deployed in local monasteries and public areas such as markets.

Speaking from the Thai border town of Mae Sot, he said that he had received reports that security has been especially tight around Mandalay’s New Masoeyein Monastery for the past three days.

As part of a brutal crackdown, the authorities raided more than 130 monasteries in Mandalay alone, forcibly defrocking and imprisoning monks. Tens of thousands of peaceful protesters were detained throughout the country, and according to the United Nations, 31 people were killed.

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