Myanmar's main city sees largest rally since 2007

AP News
Posted: Sep 21, 2012 8:41 AM
Myanmar's main city sees largest rally since 2007

YANGON, Myanmar (AP) — The authorities in Myanmar blocked people Friday from rallying in the isolated capital, but allowed hundreds to march through the country's main city in Yangon's largest rally in five years.

In both cases, authorities had refused to grant permits to people marking the International Day of Peace. But police did nothing to stop the procession in Yangon, which started at City Hall and snaked several kilometers (miles) through the city.

Earlier in the day, police refused to let about 100 people board buses for the capital, Naypyitaw. They gave no explanation for withholding a permit, telling the group to disperse or face legal action.

The Yangon rally was the city's largest since 2007, when Buddhist monks led pro-democracy demonstrations that were brutally crushed by the former ruling military regime.

The peace march was organized by 19 civil society groups including those representing various rights organizations and ethnic and religious groups, including the Kachin, who are engaged in combat with the government in the country's north.

Myanmar has been troubled since independence in 1948 by unrest by many of its ethnic minorities seeking autonomy, although the current government has cease-fires with many ethnic rebel groups.

The Yangon marchers ended their day-long trek at the city's landmark Inya Lake, where they erected a 3-foot (1-meter) tall alabaster monument with the inscription "eternal peace in the country."

Participants sang peace songs, listened to short speeches, observed five minutes of silence and called on the president and the parliament to help end civil war in the country. They released blue balloons and distributed white flowers to participants as well as dozens of police who were observing the event.