Rangoon Monks March—Eyewitness Report

By The Irrawaddy

Rangoon, September 18, 2007—An eyewitness of Tuesday’s march by monks through downtown Rangoon said the demonstration began at the Shwedagon Pagoda at 1 p.m.

“About 300 monks gathered at the southern stairway,” the eyewitness told The Irrawaddy.  “The way to the stairway was blocked by burly plain-clothed persons who appeared to be unarmed. The monks hesitated for a moment then turned peacefully aside down another road.

“They continued back to the main road (Kabar Aye Pagoda Road), where traffic police stopped traffic for them, and walked silently down the centre of the main road all the way downtown to Sule Pagoda.

“As they reached the crowded downtown area they started to gather many hundreds of hangers-on, who did not walk exactly with them, but walked on the sidewalks alongside while the monks walked down the centre of the road.

“From Sule Pagoda, they proceeded east and then south onto Strand Road, gathering more persons, and finally ended their march at Botataung Pagoda. They sat down in front of the pagoda, possibly praying, for about 10 minutes. A few hundred people followed them in but most stayed outside the pagoda gates.

“Finally the monks stood and applauded, and all the people in the vicinity outside and inside the pagoda, applauded also. Then the monks marched out of the pagoda, accompanied by perhaps a few hundred persons in the road with them, and many more still on the sidewalks. They went a short distance up Botataung Pagoda road, whereupon they dispersed and took buses back to their monasteries, at about 2:30 p.m.

Throughout, there were only a few uniformed personnel to be seen, all of whom were traffic police directing traffic to ease the monks’ way. There were certainly many plainclothes thugs and military intelligence with cameras, phones, etc, but all of these people left the monks totally unmolested, and as far as I could see left the bystanders alone as well.”

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