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A Statement by the Asian Human Rights Commission 

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information direct from Rangoon to confirm reports that this morning, 25 September 2007, government vehicles manned by the personnel of township councils, quasi-government officials, government-organised thugs, police and others have since around 10am been patrolling the streets warning that there are to be no further protests or they will be met with violence and legal action.

According to the information, the vehicles have been broadcasting announcements through loudspeakers that neither the monks nor public are to go on to the streets or stand on the side of the roads to support anybody marching on the street. The AHRC has confirmed that the vehicles have been moving around at least three townships: Kyauktada and Pabedan in the centre of town, and nearby Pazundaung. They have advised that protestors will be charged or violently repressed under the colonial-era sections 127-129 of the Criminal Procedure Code, which give authority to "command any unlawful assembly... to disperse" and if it does not to "proceed to disperse such assembly by force", and by military force if required. An unconfirmed report has it that announcements at the front of Yuzana Plaza, a big commercial building, have warned that protestors will be shot. There are also reports of army vehicles on the move in the city. Meanwhile, there are reports of similar announcements in other cities, including Mandalay.

The actions follow television broadcasts and newspaper announcements on the night of September 24 with directives issued by the Maha Sangha Nayaka Committee, the official supreme council of monks established under the auspices of the government, that the regional and local committees "supervise the Buddhist monks and novices so that they are to practice only Pariyatti [study of scripture] and Patipatti [meditation and lifestyle]", in accordance with three directives that were issued in 1990: the last time that the monks declared a boycott of the military regime. On that occasion, the military surrounded and occupied monasteries around the country, and thousands of monks and novices were arrested. Following the announcement from the committee, the Minister for Religious Affairs, Brigadier General Thura Myint Maung, indicated that "failure to observe or obey... will be met with action".

At last report, a large assembly of monks and ordinary people was already marching in Rangoon, despite the threats. 

Bloodshed in Burma is now imminent. Two decades since the atrocities of 1988 the military regime there is indicating that it has in no way changed in its behaviour or outlook: even its rhetoric is virtually identical; there is no reason to think that it will shy away from its threats now. 

The Asian Human Rights Commission thus alerts the world community to the looming tragedy in Burma and calls on all parties concerned to do everything at their disposal to prevent it. If the world fails now, unlike in previous years, we will not be able to say that we did not know.

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About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation monitoring and lobbying human rights issues in Asia. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.

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