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Junta regains control of streets with iron fist

Yangon, Sept. 28 (AP): Myanmar’s junta appeared to have regained control of the streets today, sealing off Buddhist monasteries, shutting down public Internet service and scattering isolated demonstrations with gunfire.

Many residents were worried that the bold pro-democracy uprising that erupted one month ago may prove to be short-lived.

The military government, defiant in the face of growing international condemnation, says 10 persons have been killed since the almost daily demonstrations were put down violently this week, but diplomats say the toll is likely much higher. Dissident groups have put the number as high as 200.

In London, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s office said he believes the loss of life in Myanmar is “far greater” than has been reported.

Today, the largest demonstration of about 2,000 people gathered a few streets off Sule Pagoda, or temple, in downtown Yangon under the hot, mid-afternoon sun. Armed only with insults and boos, the protesters faced the soldiers, dressed in green uniforms and red bandanas around their necks, holding shields and automatic weapons.

As the crowd drew nearer, the soldiers fired in the air, sending the protesters scurrying. A handful moved toward the soldiers but were beaten with clubs and dragged into trucks to be taken away.

“Bloodbath again! Bloodbath again! Why the Americans do not come to help us' Why doesn’t America save us,” said a Yangon resident, who watched the demonstrators being dispersed. Elsewhere, riot police played cat-and-mouse with smaller groups of die-hard activists.

Today, troops barricaded key monasteries and blocked nearby roads with barbed wire to keep the clergymen inside. “Now there are no monks we have no one to turn to,” said a young woman.

The government also suspended the services of the two Internet service providers, BaganNet and Myanmar Post and Telecom, but embassies hooked up to the Web by satellite remained online.

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