Myanmar junta takes soldiers off Yangon streets

Myanmar junta takes soldiers off Yangon streets

Yangon/London: The Myanmar junta reduced security in Yangon sharply on Sunday, apparently confident it would face no further mass protests against military rule, but the streets remained unusually quiet and arrests continued. The move followed Saturday protests worldwide, with thousands gathering in London and smaller actions in Sydney, Stockholm, Bangkok and Paris.

The last barricades were removed from the centre of the former capital around the Shwedagon and Sule pagodas which were the starting and finishing points of protests soldiers crushed by firing into crowds and arresting monks and other demonstrators.

People on the streets were too scared to talk despite the ruling generals saying for the first time they were willing to talk to detained democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, albeit on conditions she is unlikely to accept.

Senior general Than Shwe, the head of the junta that has 45 years of unbroken military rule in the nation previously known as Burma, offered direct talks if Suu Kyi abandoned “confrontation" and her support for sanctions and “utter devastation."

Meanwhile, the coordinated displays of public condemnation followed the violent crackdown by Myanmar’s junta on thousands of activists led by the monks in late September. At least 13 people were killed and 2,000 detained in the clampdown.

In Britain, thousands crowded through streets behind Buddhist monks who threw petals into the Thames river. In Sydney, hundreds rallied outside the landmark Opera House. Dozens also gathered in front of the Myanmar embassy in Bangkok, shouting “Free Burma" and brandishing pictures of Myanmar’s pro-democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi.

Campaigners in India were to hold a candle-lit vigil outside a war memorial in the heart of New Delhi. In Singapore, a vigil outside the Myanmar embassy involving an opposition political party and members of the Myanmar community entered its seventh day on Saturday. Reuters

AFP contributed to the story.