Burma: Monks stage rare protest

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The Independent Online

Five Buddhist monks launched a rare protest inside a famous temple in Burma's second-largest city yesterday, calling on the government to immediately release political prisoners.

The monks locked themselves inside a museum at Maha Myatmuni pagoda in the central city of Mandalay before heading out in a car to a monastery to continue the protest, said Ni Ni Tun, a 35-year-old resident. She said the monks hung banners with slogans in Burmese and English on the pagoda that read "Free all political prisoners" and "We want freedom".

Protests are rare in Burma, where dissent has been suppressed by a military junta that was in power from 1962 until earlier this year. It transferred control to a nominally civilian government led by a former general which has promised to liberalise politics, but continues to hold about 2,000 political prisoners.

Monks have generally stayed out of politics since demonstrations led by the Buddhist clergy in 2007 brought as many as 100,000 people on to the streets of Rangoon. The protests were brutally suppressed and many monks thrown into prison.