RANGOON, Burma (AP) — Hundreds of demonstrating Buddhist monks marched past barricades to the home of Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, raising pressure on the junta by symbolically uniting their growing protest movement with the icon of the Burma’s long struggle for democracy.
The two strands of the escalating opposition to Burma’s military government came together on a tree-lined Rangoon street after police unexpectedly let more than 500 monks and other protesters through a roadblock.
Mrs. Suu Kyi, 62, has been seen only by a handful of guards, servants and her doctors for more than four years.
Monks have been marching for the past five days in Burma’s biggest city and around the country as a month of protests against economic problems under the junta has ballooned into the biggest grass-roots challenge to its rule in two decades.
By linking their cause to Mrs. Suu Kyi’s activism, which led to her detention for about 12 of the past 18 years, the monks increase the pressure on the junta to decide whether to crack down or to compromise with the demonstrators.
“The key is the monks and Aung San Suu Kyi have one thing in common: peaceful protest,” said Larry Jagan, a Bangkok-based journalist specializing in Burma. “They want to see change through peaceful means. What we’re seeing is a coming together of the main political force in the country and the main religious leaders.”
The monks stopped briefly in front of Mrs. Suu Kyi’s house and said some prayers before leaving at the other end of the street, said witnesses. One monk later said Mrs. Suu Kyi came out to the gate and paid her respects to the monks.
The part of University Avenue where Mrs. Suu Kyi’s house is located has been closed to traffic since Sept. 17. After the monks passed, the road was closed again.
In the central Burmese city of Mandalay, a crowd of 10,000 people, including at least 4,000 Buddhist monks, marched yesterday in one of the largest demonstrations since the 1988 democracy uprising, witnesses said.
The latest protest movement began Aug. 19 after the government raised fuel prices.
A monks’ organization for the first time urged the public to join in protesting “evil military despotism” in Burma, officially known as Myanmar.
“In order to banish the common enemy evil regime from Burmese soil forever, united masses of people need to join hands with the united clergy forces,” the All Burma Monks Alliance said.