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SEAPA is greatly alarmed by surfacing reports of disconnected
telephone and Internet access in Burma as the junta begins cracking
down on marches led by thousands of monks in Rangoon and Mandalay
on 26 September 2007, killing several people, according to

A Burmese activist based in the city of Chiang Mai, in the
neighbouring country of Thailand, said he has not been able to
reach anyone in Rangoon on the mobile phone since 25 September,
when the junta warned for a halt to the daily marches that began on
19 September. An inside source said Internet connection has been
especially slow since then. And on the morning of 26 September,
some land lines in Sittway, the capital of the western state of
Rakhine, could not be reached.

Another SEAPA contact said that in the Kachin capital of Myitkyina
state up north, all cell phone lines have been cut off. And an
international non-governmental organisation, whose name has been
withheld to protect its Burmese contacts, said it has lost contact
with its office in the country.

Internet access and mobile phone connections have been particularly
crucial in the past weeks as channels through which powerful
pictures of the demonstrations were transmitted outside the
notoriously closed regime, bringing international attention to the
sufferings of the long-oppressed nation that is one of the poorest
in the world.

The disruption in telecommunication services is extremely worrying
as a state of siege appears imminent, invoking SEAPA's earlier
fears that a brutal crackdown is being planned, the scale of which
would not be known by the world.

Already, a SEAPA source in Rangoon said three civilians were shot
in front of him at about 5:00 p.m. (local time) and their bodies
taken away by military police. Earlier, a witness at Sule Pagoda
said police fired into the crowd, killing five people. The
Democratic Voice of Burma reported that two monks and a girl have
been killed.

After a euphoric outing over the past days when they were allowed
free run of the streets, protesters today were tear-gassed, beaten
with batons and arrested. Riot police also beat and manhandled the
deeply revered Buddhist clergy as they were taken away from the
starting point of their marches, the Shwedagon Pagoda in Rangoon,
arresting up to 200 monks.

The junta is also cracking down on celebrities who had dared to
show their support for the monks, who took to the streets after the
junta clamped down on the people's protests against a five-fold
fuel price hike. The country's most famous comedian Zarganar was
arrested on 25 September and his cell phone confiscated after he
called on writers and actors to join him in offering the monks alms
at the Shwedagon Pagoda.

SEAPA calls on all nations of the world, especially of Southeast
Asia, to pressure their governments to condemn the junta's brutal
crackdown of the Burmese people's peaceful exercise of their right
to free expression and assembly. The long-repressed people have
spoken with their feet against the dictatorial regime that has
ruled since 1990, and it is high time that the world listens to and
acts on their concerns.

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