More Protests In Yangon
YANGON (Reuters) - A gang of supporters of Myanmar's military rulers broke up a small protest in Yangon on Thursday as the arrest of 13 leading dissidents did little to quash public anger at soaring fuel prices and falling living standards.
A tense stand-off ensued before the 30 marchers, who had been walking towards the offices of the opposition National League for Democracy, were manhandled into trucks belonging to the junta's feared Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA).
A Reuters reporter was told not to take photographs and chased from the scene.
Later, ex-political prisoner Ohn Than staged a one-man demonstration outside the U.S. embassy, shouting slogans in English and Burmese for 10 minutes before being carted off by police.
The 61-year-old called for the military junta that has ruled the former Burma for the last 45 years to honor the results of a 1990 election it lost by a landslide then annulled, witnesses said.
There was no word in the army-controlled media on the fate of the 13 dissidents arrested on Wednesday night, who included Min Ko Naing, the country's second-most prominent activist after detained Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.
Five women and a man picked up by the USDA after a small demonstration on Wednesday in north Yangon were released.
For a second day, armed police and truckloads of USDA men armed with spades and brooms took up positions in the centre of the former capital.
However, in an apparent sop to the widespread outrage at last week's shock fuel price rises, bus fares for the shortest journeys were halved.
The junta's doubling of diesel prices and a five-fold increase in the cost of compressed natural gas had brought Yangon's bus networks to a standstill and stoked discontent in the city of 5 million people.
Analysts said the hard core of the dissident movement, centered on the still-influential leaders of a 1988 mass student uprising ruthlessly suppressed by the army with large loss of life, would continue to express public discontent.
However, the junta's coordinated action, starting with Wednesday's midnight swoops on the student leaders, had probably ensured the series of small but persistent social protests were not going to snowball into something larger.
"These people have vowed to continue the struggle at all costs. They have vowed to go all the way, and so for sure they will continue to protest," said Aung Naing Oo, a 1988 protester who fled to Thailand to escape the bloody military crackdown.
"But I doubt a large majority of people will participate. Small gatherings of 100 here, 200 there, will go on -- but the emphasis is on the word small," he said.
The world's largest rice exporter when it won independence from Britain in 1948, Myanmar is now one of Asia's poorest countries after more than four decades of unbroken military rule.
Suu Kyi, daughter of independence hero Aung San, who won the 1990 landslide election victory at the helm of her National League for Democracy party has spent most of the 17 years since in prison or under house arrest.