ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.
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And I'm Melissa Block.
In Myanmar, formerly Burma, the military government has imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew in the nation's two largest cities, and it has again warned of harsh punishment for protesters. This is the junta's latest attempt to end the peaceful pro-democracy demonstrations that have taken place daily over the past week. More than 10,000 Buddhist monks and their supporters poured into the streets of the capital, Yangon, again today. The demonstrations have become the most serious challenge to the military since 1988, a challenge that might yet provoke a similarly bloody response.
NPR's Michael Sullivan was in the capital, Yangon, and farther north in Myanmar's second largest city, Mandalay. Here's his report.
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MICHAEL SULLIVAN: Right up until they declared the curfew, Myanmar's repressive military rulers seem to be in denial.
Unidentified Man #1: (Speaking foreign language)
SULLIVAN: Today's demonstration didn't even rate a mention on the government's evening newscast, which led instead with what the government deemed a far bigger story: The construction of the new railroad line in a far-flung province. But everyone in the capital knew what the real story was.
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SULLIVAN: For the eighth straight day, thousands of barefoot Buddhist monks in cinnamon robes march from the iconic Shwedagon Pagoda to the Sule Pagoda downtown, chanting prayers, and occasionally something more defiant, some of the younger monks waving to the crowds as they walk. They were accompanied again today by thousands of enthusiastic supporters, who formed protective human chains around the monks. Large crowds of onlookers line the streets cheering as the procession passed.
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SULLIVAN: The atmosphere was unmistakably festive, even jubilant. But some of the more cautious in the crowd and among democracy activists were apprehensive, too, wondering when and if the other shoe would drop. Myanmar's military has a long history of violently suppressing dissent. The military issued a statement last night warning protesters to stop, a warning ignored both in the capital and in Myanmar's second city, Mandalay, where thousands of monks and a smaller number of ordinary people have been marching almost every day for the past week.
Demonstrations were reported in several other cities and towns today as well. But there were signs this evening the government's patience may be at an end. The curfew is once such sign, the military on the move, is another. After today's protesters in the capital, Yangon, dispersed peacefully, at least six truckloads of grim-looking, heavily armed troops took up positions in the center of the city next to the Sule Pagoda. There were reports of similar deployments at other points around the city, where demonstrators are known to gather each morning.
Unidentified Child: (Speaking foreign language)
SULLIVAN: Residents of the capital packed local markets early this morning before the march and again, after, stocking up on rice and other essentials just in case things do turn worse in a hurry. And some democracy activists spoke of the near certainty of violence. The military is feeling more and more threatened, one activist told me today, and they believed they have nothing to lose. Another look at the deployment of troops as proof that the military has decided to end the protests one way or another. Tomorrow, he said, they're going to start shooting.
Michael Sullivan, NPR News.
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