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Biggest ever protest in Myanmar

Emboldened after a march to see Myanmar’s democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi, 20,000 people led by Buddhist monks on Sunday launched the biggest challenge against military rule in nearly two decades.

world Updated: Sep 24, 2007 00:55 IST

Emboldened after a march to see Myanmar’s democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi, 20,000 people led by Buddhist monks on Sunday launched the biggest challenge against military rule in nearly two decades.

They marched in the rain-sodden streets of Yangon from the golden Shwedagon Pagoda, Myanmar’s most important landmark, and numbers swelled as they crossed downtown Yangon and circled the Sule Pagoda, witnesses said.

About 10,000 monks, many of them barefoot, were joined for the first time by nuns clad in pale pink robes. They were followed by about 10,000 supporters.

“We want the people to join us,” the monks chanted. A group of about 200 protesters and monks carrying a sign reading “loving kindness will win every time” tried to approach Aung San Suu Kyi’s house -- as they had successfully done on Saturday -- but were turned away.

Riot police equipped with shields blocked the road and fire trucks were parked nearby, and the monks eventually turned round and left the area. Clapping onlookers and supporters earlier thronged the side of the road in downtown Yangon, handing out water and flowers and proffering balm for the monks’ exposed feet. “We want national reconciliation, we want dialogue with the military, we want freedom for Aung San Sun Kyi and other political prisoners,” one protest leader cried into a microphone.

The protests followed a landmark day on Saturday, when the army allowed about 2,000 monks and civilians to pass a roadblock and gather by the lakeside Yangon house which has been Aung San Suu Kyi’s prison for 12 of the past 18 years.