Update 9pm Eastern. The junta gains the upper hand…
Soldiers and police took control of the streets Friday, firing warning shots and tear gas to scatter the few pro-democracy protesters who ventured out as Myanmar’s military junta sealed off Buddhist monasteries and cut public Internet access.
On the third day of a harsh government crackdown, the streets were empty of the mass gatherings that had peacefully challenged the regime daily for nearly two weeks, leaving only small groups of activists to be chased around by security forces.
“Bloodbath again! Bloodbath again!” a Yangon resident yelled while watching soldiers break up one march by shooting into air, firing tear gas and beating people with clubs.
Update 1:30pm Eastern. White House blasts Burmese government for Internet shut-off:
he White House criticized Myanmar on Friday for cutting off Internet access and called on “all civilized nations” to pressure the military-run government to end its violent crackdown on protesters. “They don’t want the world to see what is going on there,” White House spokesman Scott Stanzel said.
Update 11:30am Eastern. Worldwide condemnation:
Myanmar’s crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators drew condemnation and sparked protests Friday, with the top U.S. diplomat in the reclusive nation calling the violence “tragic” and the European Union denounced “gross and systematic violations of human rights.”
The United Nations said it will convene an emergency session on human rights abuses and dispatched an envoy to Myanmar who could arrive as early as Saturday. Britain demanded an end to “oppression and force” against the demonstrators.
Myanmar’s Asian neighbors expressed “revulsion” at the violence and urged the military rulers to seek a political solution. Japan said it had asked China to use its influence with junta to resolve the crisis. In neighboring Thailand, officials said airplanes were standing by to evacuate foreigners if conditions deteriorated further.
On Friday, soldiers clubbed activists in the streets and occupied Buddhist monasteries to try to put down the largest protests since The government said 10 people have been killed since Wednesday, although exile groups say the toll may be much higher.
Update 10:45am Eastern. The Lede points to more Burmese bloggers continuing to report despite the clampdown.
Update 9:50am Eastern. PJM pays tribute to monks and bloggers.
And read Agam’s Gecko, an Asian-based blog that has followed the Burmese democracy movement for many, many years. Agam has all the latest, including video of the junta propaganda news broadcast I mentioned below blaming foreign “destructionists” for the protests:
Update: Photo of Japanese journalist Kenji Nagai as he lay dying…
As I noted the other day, Burmese bloggers have been crucial whistleblowers and eyewitnesses to history–supplying the world with round-the-clock coverage and photos of their oppressive regime’s crackdown. Now, just as the Western press is lauding their role, the military junta has reportedly cut off Internet access:
Myanmar’s government appeared to have cut public Internet access and troops occupied key Buddhist monasteries on Friday, witnesses and diplomats said, in an effort to end demonstrations against the ruling junta.
The moves raised concerns that the military government may be preparing to intensify a crackdown on civilians that has killed at least 10 people in the past two days. The Internet in particular has played a crucial role in getting news and images of the pro-democracy protests to the outside world.
According to AFP, government officials are blaming a “damaged underwater cable.”
After two days of unrest in Yangon’s streets, Myanmar’s main link to the Internet has stopped working, according to a telecom official who blamed the problem on a damaged cable.
“The Internet is not working because the underwater cable is damaged,” an official with Myanmar Post and Telecoms told AFP on condition of anonymity.
Myanmar’s Internet service is tightly controlled and only sporadically available even in the best of times, but the military has tightened its controls amid anti-government protests.
In Bangkok, an official at a Thai telecom that provides satellite services to Myanmar also said some Internet service inside the country had been cut.
One western source inside Myanmar said she had not been able to access emails or Internet since late morning.
Yes, question the timing.
Several popular dissident blogs had already gone dark the past few days before the “damaged underwater cable” shut down Internet accesss.
The fate of one prolific Burmese blogger, Moezack, is unknown. The entire blog has been wiped.
The Times of London has gripping photos of murdered journalist Kenji Nagai of Japan, who was shot to death while covering the protests on a Rangoon street.
What’s being done?
— The United States ordered a freeze on the assets of Burma’s military leader and 13 other top officials
— President Bush urged Burmese troops “not to use force on their fellow citizens”
— Foreign ministers of the Association of SouthEast Asian Nations (Asean) expressed “revulsion” at the treatment of protesters. “They were appalled to receive reports of automatic weapons being used,” said George Yeo, the Singaporean Foreign Minister
— Burma issued a visa to Ibrahim Gambari, who was dispatched by the UN Security Council to investigate the crisis.
The Democratic Voice of Burma continues to broadcast.