Asia Crisis

Army barricades lifted around key Myanmar temples

(Updates with Sule Pagoda unblocked)

YANGON, Oct 1 (Reuters) - Myanmar's junta has removed barriers blocking off two Yangon temples that served as rallying points for last week's protests, suggesting it is confident it has squashed the monk-led revolt, witnesses said on Monday.

But, despite the first signs of the junta relaxing its iron grip on the city of five million people, soldiers remained at the four entrances to the Shwedagon Pagoda, Myanmar's holiest shrine and the starting point for the protests.

They were also out in force near Sule Pagoda although the barbed-wire barricades that had cordoned off the area, the end-point of massive marches a week ago, had been pulled aside.

Monks say at least five of their brethren were killed in clashes with security forces during the biggest anti-government protests in army-ruled Myanmar since a 1988 uprising, when the army is believed to have killed 3,000 people.

State television and media said on Friday 10 civilians had been killed when troops cleared the streets. Order had been restored, the media said, and the protests had been handled "with care, using the least possible force".

Soldiers and police remain at many street corners and key locations, making it impossible for crowds of demonstrators to gather, witnesses said.

People are being stopped and having their bags searched for cameras and video equipment, and the Internet, through which shocking pictures and images of the crackdown have reached the outside world, remains switched off.