Myanmar protesters march through London

LONDON (Reuters) - Several thousand protesters marched through central London on Saturday after a global day of demonstrations against Myanmar’s violent suppression of pro-democracy protests failed to take off in Asia.

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A rally in Tokyo was cancelled and one in Bangkok attracted only around 100 people. Dozens of Buddhist monks and women demonstrated outside the Myanmar and Chinese embassies in the Bangladesh capital Dhaka.

In Australia around 250 mainly Burmese expatriates staged a march to the Sydney Opera House and around 200 protesters gathered in Melbourne.

“We are united in opposition to the military dictatorship in Burma. It’s time for the regime to start reconciliation,” said Sydney organiser Maung Maung Than who called for pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and all political prisoners to be freed.

Than said the protests were also aimed at keeping up pressure on the international community to act. “The international response is just getting started, it must get a lot stronger.”

One banner at the protest called for a boycott of the Beijing Olympics in 2008, reflecting a view that regional powerhouse China should be exerting more pressure on the junta.

In London, after a delegation met Prime Minister Gordon Brown, campaigners waving placards and wearing red headbands to show solidarity with detained monks marched to a rally in Trafalgar Square. Police said 3,000 took part in the demonstration, but organisers estimated the turnout at 10,000.

On the way, they dropped petals into the River Thames and tied ribbons and robes to the gates at the entrance of the road to Downing Street.


A planned protest in Tokyo was cancelled. Organisers said they were satisfied with a U.N. draft proposal on Myanmar on Friday which condemned repression by the junta and demanded it free political detainees and begin dialogue with the opposition.

In Bangkok, about 100 activists shouted anti-junta slogans and waved placards saying “No More Bloodshed” and “Stop Destroying Freedom” as they marched through the Thai capital.

Boonthan Verawongse of the rights group Amnesty International called on the Thai government to put pressure on Myanmar’s generals.

“Without intervention by the Thai government and many Asian countries, the Burmese junta will still be very strong and oppress people in the country,” he said.

Myanmar receives most of its export earnings from selling gas to Thailand, which is competing against China, India and others for a slice of the country’s abundant gas reserves.

Myanmar’s Southeast Asian neighbours condemned last week’s ruthless crackdown when soldiers opened fire to clear the streets of the capital of up to 100,000 monk-led protesters, but have so far ruled out sanctions.

State media said 10 people were killed in the violence. “We believe there have been many more killings than the regime admit,” Brown said in a statement.

Additional reporting by Mayumi Negishi in Tokyo, Arada Therdthammakun in Bangkok, Masud Karim in Dhaka and James Thornhill in Sydney