Asia Crisis

Protesters rally across Asia against Myanmar

CANBERRA, Sept 28 (Reuters) - Thousands of people wearing red for blood spilt in Myanmar protested in Asia on Friday, clashing with police in Australia and screaming "get out murderers" in Malaysia, as outrage soared over Myanmar's military crackdown.

"Junta, go to hell!", yelled some of the 2,000 protesters in Kuala Lumpur, angered by the ruling military's crackdown against monks and pro-democracy supporters, in which at least nine people have died.

Venting their anger in the city's usually quiet diplomatic area, they held up pictures of Buddha and Myanmar's pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

"As most citizens suffer from starvation and utter misery, the monks are reciting peace chants inside our country," Kyaw Kyaw Min, who led Friday's protest, told Reuters.

"The junta used violence on the monks. Because of that, eight monks were killed and the blood of the monks fell on the ground."

Anger also boiled over in Australia's capital Canberra, where around 100 anti-junta protesters were forced back by riot police and dogs while trying to charge the Myanmar embassy to deliver a petition condemning the violence.

"Free Burma. Pray for Burma," the group shouted, burning Myanmar's flag and staging a sit-down protest on the street outside the heavily-fenced mission.

"They kill our people, so we cannot stay at home," protest organiser Soe Lwin told authorities before marching on China's embassy in Canberra to demand Beijing, Myanmar's closest ally, help rein-in the generals.

In Jakarta, around 50 Indonesian foreign ministry officials, dressed in red shirts, observed a period of silence to express solidarity with Myanmar's pro-democracy protestors.

"We pray that the people of Myanmar will enjoy peace," said Umar Hadi, the ministry's director of public diplomacy.

About 20 people also rallied outside the Myanmar embassy, staging a theatrical act depicting soldiers attacking demonstrators, including monks.


In Bangkok, about 300 Thai and Burmese protesters rallied outside the Myanmar embassy, adding to expected protests from Taipei to Tokyo.

"Let's boycott the Olympics in China, which is the best friend of the generals who killed people in Yangon," a protest leader told the crowd.

Taiwan's President Chen Shui-bian issued a statement expressing "strong regret and condemnation" of the crackdown as around 30 democracy activists gathered at the Chiang Kai-shek memorial, shouting "stop the violence".

"People have been killed," said organiser Sun You-lian. "Just because we don't have diplomatic ties with Myanmar doesn't mean we shouldn't have a reaction."

In the Philippines protesters slashed their hair, shouting "Free Burma" and punching a picture of Than Shwe, the head of Myanmar's ruling junta.

Sympathy for Myanmar ran deep in the Philippines, protesters said, because people recalled years of martial law under former Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos.

"ASEAN should be together now to put pressures on Burma, and even to impose strong sanctions on Burma, so that it can help in convincing the generals that their time is up," said Josua Mata, spokesman of the Free Burma Coalition in Manila.

Foreign ministers from ASEAN, a grouping of 10 Southeast Asian countries, gathered without their Myanmar colleague at the United Nations on Thursday to condemn the crackdown and shatter their usual consensus, saying they were "appalled" at reports of automatic weapons used against civilians.

Protests have also swirled across the Internet, where online appeals called for people across the world to don red shirts for Myanmar's people.

"Wear red to show your support, to show them they are not alone. Free Burma," one petition organised by the Picnic rights network said.

Additional reporting by Michaela Cabrera in Manila, Niluksi Koswanage in Kuala Lumpur, Sugita Katyal in Jakarta and Ralph Jennings in Taipei