Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Freedom of Assembly: Still a Threat to Oppressive Regimes

Here's a reminder that U.S. civil liberties are still unusual among billions of homo sapiens.

From the Associated Press:

YANGON, Myanmar -- Myanmar's military leaders imposed a nighttime curfew and banned gatherings of more than five people Tuesday after 35,000 Buddhist monks and their supporters defied the junta's warnings and staged another day of anti-government protests.

The country's hard-line military rulers have not used force so far to stop the biggest anti-government demonstrations in nearly two decades, led by the monks. But soldiers in full battle gear were deployed Tuesday in the country's largest city, setting the stage for a showdown with a determined pro-democracy protest movement.

If protesters defy the restrictions and the military responds with force, it could further alienate already isolated Myanmar from the international community. It would almost certainly put pressure on Myanmar's top economic and diplomatic supporter, China, which is keen to burnish its international image before next year's Olympics in Beijing.

If monks who are leading the protests are mistreated, that could outrage the predominantly Buddhist country, where clerics are revered. But if the junta backs down, it risks appearing weak and emboldening protesters, which could escalate the tension.

When faced with a similar crisis in 1988, the government harshly put down a student-led democracy uprising. Security forces fired into crowds of peaceful demonstrators and killed thousands, traumatizing the nation.

Authorities announced the ban on gatherings and a 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew through loudspeakers on vehicles cruising the streets of Yangon, the country's biggest city, and its second city, Mandalay. The announcement said the measures would be in effect for 60 days.

Read the full story at: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070926/ap_on_re_as/myanmar .

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