The situation in Myanmar (formerly Burma) continues to worsen with reports emerging of escalating attempts by the authorities to repress ongoing demonstrations.
Amnesty International (AI) sources in the country report a much harsher crackdown on protesters today (Thursday). As of this afternoon, monks were no longer visible on the streets. But numerous demonstrators - estimated to number around 10,000 - continue to defy the military.
Soldiers are reported to have ordered crowds to disperse and go home – or risk being shot. Sporadic warning shots have been fired and there are unconfirmed reports of up to nine fatalities. Reports state that a Japanese photographer was killed in Yangon on Thursday in one of the violent confrontations between demonstrators and security forces.
Earlier reports described widespread use of tear gas against demonstrators and hundreds of arrests and beatings. Witnesses told AI of soldiers chasing demonstrators, who continue to take to the streets.
At least three key monasteries have been surrounded and raided by police and military, which seem to gaining firmer control over the clergy. The main monastery of the Shwedagon pagoda is said to be under siege by military and police.
Large numbers of arrests were made in overnight raids on monasteries in Yangon by military and riot police. Between 200 and 700 monks have been arrested, as well as at least four opposition politicians.
Phone lines are increasingly difficult to access, with reports suggesting the government is trying to shut down internet and telephone links to the outside world after a stream of blogs and mobile phone videos began capturing the dramatic events on the streets.
Violence and bloodshed
Amnesty International is deeply concerned at the growing possibility of violence and bloodshed in the country.
Amnesty International has called on the international community to act urgently and for the UN Security Council to visit the country immediately. In a letter to the President of the Security Council, Amnesty International also called on them to consider the possibility of imposing an arms embargo on Myanmar. AI has also urgently requested all ASEAN countries to call on the authorities in Myanmar to resolve the current crisis without resorting to violence.
Demonstrations around the world
Amnesty International members around the world have begun a series of demonstrations outside Burmese embassies and high profile public locations calling for the Myanmar authorities not to respond with violence and to respecting the human right to peaceful protest.
A demonstration is being held in London today (Thursday) and further demonstrations have been held in Washington, Switzerland and the Netherlands. This will be followed by events in Nepal, Belgium, the Philippines and Spain. Further events will be announced shortly.