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Burmese Security Forces Fire Shots to Disperse Demonstrators


For a second day, witnesses in Burma say security forces have fired shots into large crowds of pro-democracy demonstrators in Rangoon, who are taking part in the largest protests to challenge the military government in decades.

A Japanese foreign ministry official told the Associated Press that a Japanese man was one of several people found dead today Thursday following protests in several parts of the city. Hospital sources say the man appeared to be a photographer.

Hundreds of soldiers marched through the city, warning that protesters who did not disperse would be shot.

Witnesses reported soldiers firing shots and using baton charges to disperse demonstrators after at least 10,000 people gathered near the Sule Pagoda to call for peace and freedom. Witnesses also reported gatherings in other areas of the city.

Earlier, security forces raided monasteries and took away at least 100 monks accused of leading the protests. A local resident told VOA that crowds of people in her neighborhood prevented authorities from taking away a group of monks by surrounding government trucks.

Burmese state radio accused protesters of using intimidation and violence and claimed that the monks had tried to attack a pro-junta paramilitary Union Solidarity and Development Association officer in Rangoon.

Burma's military rulers have also accused foreign media of instigating the demonstrations.

On Wednesday, the government said one person was killed when troops opened fire on protesters in Rangoon. Witnesses say the death toll was higher, with at least five people killed in the violence.

According to the witnesses, more than 100 people were arrested and hundreds more injured, when police beat activists and sprayed the crowd with tear gas Wednesday.

Members of the opposition National League for Democracy say two prominent party members spokesman Myint Thein and senior member Hla Pe were arrested overnight.

The unrest began last month after the government doubled the fuel price. It has since grown into a widespread protest against 45 years of oppressive military rule.

Burma's military regime traditionally suppresses any opposition to its rule. Government forces killed an estimated 3,000 pro-democracy activists in 1988.

Information for this report is provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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