Burma Protesting Gets U.S. Support

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 It is the country's biggest pro-democracy uprising in nearly 20 years. Some are calling it a revolution.

At least 100,000 protestors joined thousands of Buddhist monks in a march through Myanmar's capitol, Monday. Such protesting has not been seen since 1988 when the military-run government brutally crushed a pro-democracy demonstration. Thousands were killed by the army during that uprising.

On Tuesday, President Bush will announce more sanctions against the military regime, to support the push for democracy, The White House said.

Economic hardships have angered many since the government sharply raised fuel prices earlier this year. The latest protesting began in August but had faltered because of arrests and intimidation from the government.

Until this weekend, demonstrations had been small and local.

But the movement got a huge boost when hundreds of leading monks joined in this weekend. By Monday, a sea of protesters could be seen stretching a full one-mile on an eight-lane road,

Demonstrators confronted authorities by chanting support for detained democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Suu Kyi, who has been compared to Nelson Mandela, has spent more than 11 years under house arrest. On Saturday, the government allowed the people a rare glimpse of her behind military lines. She greeted protesters from her gate - her first public appearance in more than four years.

While the military government may be showing restraint this time - as oppose to the 1988 uprising - it has ordered senior Buddhist monks to reign in demonstrators.

Experts say the unexpected restraint could be a result of pressure from the country's key ally, China.

"Beijing is to host the next summer's Olympic Games. Everyone knows that China is the major supporter of the junta so if government takes any action it will affect the image of China," one diplomat told The Associated Press.

"We are clearly in un-chartered territories now and there are a number of scenarios that could play out," Mark Canning, British Ambassador to Burma, said.

Although most demonstrators may believe Suu Kyi's release may be too much to hope for, the protests have emboldened the public.

"The military government must know it cannot last forever," Soe Aung, National Council of Union of Burma, said.

The White House Support

On Tuesday, President Bush will announce financial sanctions against key members and supporters of the regime, Stephen Hadley, the president's national security adviser, said.

"It's very interesting what is happening in the country with the Buddhist monks who have joined this effort," Hadley said. "Our hope is to marry that internal pressure with the external pressure coming from the United States and the United Nations and really all countries that are committed to freedom to try to force the regime into a change."

Hadley did not specific what financial sanctions would be announced. He also said there would be a visa ban against those associated with the regime, including their families.

"He will call for the United Nations and for other countries there to do all they can to support a process of political change in Burma," Hadley said.

The President will make the announcement in a speech at the U.N. General Assembly. The U.S. Already restricts imports and exports and financial transactions with Myanmar. Washington also has imposed an arms embargo on Myanmar.

Sources: ABC News, The Associated Press

 

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