Burmese Monks Stage Protest Demanding Release of Prisoners

Posted November 15th, 2011 at 8:20 am (UTC-5)
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Five Burmese monks staged a rare protest Tuesday in the city of Mandalay, drawing a crowd of supporters that numbered in the hundreds.

Residents said the monks locked themselves into a pagoda in the city center and remained there for several hours, using banners and loudspeakers to voice their demands for the release of political prisoners.

Witnesses said the monks later moved to continue their protest at a nearby monastery, followed by several hundred people on foot, bicycles and motorcycles. The monks' banners also called for freedom and an end to what they called “civil war” against ethnic minorities.

The protest came a day after an expected release of political prisoners failed to materialize. The government included about 200 political prisoners in a recent mass amnesty, but human rights groups say more than 1,600 prisoners of conscience remain in custody.

Protests of this kind have been virtually unheard of in Burma since 2007, when mass protests by clergy were brutally suppressed with at least 30 deaths and numerous arrests.