Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Burmese gov't deploys troops to Rangoon, anticipates uprising

By Linda Mottram
Radio Australia

Hundreds of supporters of Aung San Suu Kyi reportedly continue to gather near Rangoon's notorious Insein prison.

Burma's democracy leader is being held and tried behind closed doors on what are widely considered to be trumped up charges of breaching the conditions of her detention.

Speculation is simmering that another uprising may be brewing, though there are strong memories of past brutal suppression by the generals, in 1988 and more recently in September 2007 when monks led protests over rising prices and economic hardship.

Burma's general's are taking no security risks on this occasion.

There are reports of large numbers of soldiers deployed around Rangoon's Shwedagon Pagoda, where Ms Suu Kyi's supporters are holding a vigil for the Nobel Peace laureate.

Burma democracy supporters in Australia say there is widespread anger and the possibility of a new mass movement, as Ms Suu Kyi, 63, and recently in poor health, faces an almost certain extension of her detention.

The charges were laid after an American citizen swam across Lake Inya to Ms Suu Kyi's home and stayed against her will for two nights.

Uprising on the cards

Maung Maun Than from the Sydney-based Australian Coalition for Democracy in Burma says the Burmese people are outraged at Ms Suu Kyi's treatment.

"People are really angry and you can see hundreds of people gather outside the Insein prison," he said.

"And some monks who led the uprising two years ago, they are also coming up again and they are gathering around the Insein prison.

"So there's the possibility of having another mass movement," he says.

Former Australian Ambassador to Burma (2000-2003), Trevor Wilson, told Radio Australia it is becoming more difficult for the generals to contain public sentiment, though they're not relinquishing any control.

"The situation is still very much under tight police state control by the authorities and they are very watchful for any sign of protest or public activity particularly on the streets or meeting places," he said.

"Even if they turn off the internet, even if they block news broadcasts coming into the country, people are reacting very strongly when the regime does things like this and sometimes the public, members of the public don't particularly care about the consequences for themselves personally."

International political leaders and observers of Burma are convinced the recent bizarre incident merely presented the generals with a convenient opportunity to try to cloak further detention for Ms Suu Kyi in a veil of legality, ahead of elections planned for 2010.

United Nations legal experts have said that Ms Suu Kyi's house arrest is illegal under Burmese law, which says a detainee my be freed of put on trial after five consecutive years of detention.

Ms Suu Kyi has spent 13 of the past 19 years in detention and was denied power by the generals after a decisive election win in 1990 by Ms Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy.

Her current term of house arrest is due to expire on 27 May 2009.

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