Dissention may be Growing in Myanmar Military

The protests and violent government crackdown in Myanmar is showing few signs of letting up.

Times of London reporter Nick Meo, reporting from the Myanmar-Thailand border, says dissidents expect the protests to start up again, despite government efforts to arrest and suppress the country's revered Buddhist monks. The few people who have fled across the Thai border say that a long and sustained struggle will be necessary to topple the junta in Myanmar.

Meo says one of the defectors he spoke to was an officer in the Myanmar army. As a devote Buddhist, the officer was unable to bring himself to give the order to attack the monks, who have led the protests.

The officer says he is not alone in his dissent, according to Meo. The military officer estimated that most of the officers opposed the crackdown, but Myanmar's Senior Gen. Than Shwe is supported by a "hard core" of loyal officers. Still, Meo says, the military officer believed that mutiny is possible if the crackdown continues or if the army is forced to attack the monks again.

Meo speaks with Alex Chadwick about the protests and government crackdown.

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Security forces in Myanmar used megaphones on Wednesday to announce a roundup of pro-democracy activists amid reports that police were carrying out house-to-house arrests following a bloody crackdown on anti-government protests.

"We have photographs. We are going to make arrests!" police shouted from military vehicles on dawn patrols of the streets of the country's largest city, Yangon.

Shari Villarosa, the acting U.S. ambassador in Myanmar, told The Associated Press by telephone that people in Yangon were terrified.

"From what we understand, military police ... are traveling around the city in the middle of the night, going into homes and picking up people," she said.

She said embassy staff had gone to some monasteries in recent days and found them deserted. Others were barricaded by the military and declared off-limits to outsiders.

"Where are the monks? What has happened to them?" she said. "People are terrified, and the underlying forces of discontent have not been addressed."

The military crushed the protests on Sept. 26 and 27 with live ammunition, tear gas and beatings. Hundreds of monks and civilians were carted off to detention camps. The government says 10 people were killed in the violence. But dissident groups put the death toll at up to 200 and say 6,000 people were detained.

Residents living near the Shwedagon Pagoda, Myanmar's most revered shrine and a flashpoint of unrest, reported that police swept through dozens of homes in the middle of the night, dragging away several men for questioning. The homes were located above shops at a marketplace that caters to the nearby pagoda, selling monks robes and begging bowls.

The Democratic Voice of Burma, a dissident radio station based in Norway, said authorities have released 90 of 400 monks detained in Myitkyina, the capital of Kachin state, during a midnight raid on monasteries on Sept. 25.

The U.N.'s special envoy, Ibrahim Gambari, declined to comment on his four-day mission to Myanmar, where the military junta last month crushed mass pro-democracy demonstrations led by the nation's revered Buddhist monks.

Gambari went to Myanmar on Saturday to convey the international community's outrage at the junta's actions. He also hoped to persuade the junta to take the people's aspirations seriously.

He met junta leader Senior Gen. Than Shwe and his deputies and talked to detained pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi twice.

The military has ruled Myanmar since 1962, and the current junta came to power after snuffing out the 1988 pro-democracy movement. The generals called elections in 1990, but refused to give up power when Suu Kyi's party won.

From NPR reports and The Associated Press

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