Security stepped up in Pakokku

Aug 29, 2008 (DVB), Barbed wire barriers erected by armed government soldiers on the streets of Pakokku in an effort to prevent demonstrations have brought traffic to a standstill, local residents said.

Authorities have stepped up security out of concern that monks will stage protests on the streets as the first anniversary of last September's Saffron Revolution approaches.

This latest increase in security by soldiers came as monks from lecturing monasteries continued to maintain their religious strike by refusing donations from the Ministry of Communications, Post and Telegrams.

Last Monday, communications minister major-general Thein Zaw came to donate materials to some teaching monasteries but the monks at Anauk-taik threw away all the donations, leaving them in a pile outside the monastery compound.

Even local residents refused to take the rejected donations and the authorities had to come and collect them, eyewitnesses said.

Donations were only accepted by Ashayt-taik monastery, which is inhabited by members of the official Naingngandaw Sangha Mahayaka, while Aleh-taik monks also refused to accept any offerings, local residents said.

Since the monks began their religious boycott, they have completely refused to accept government donations and have thrown away any donations from ministers which they were forced to accept.

The day after Thein Zaw's visit to the area, two army trucks packed with soldiers arrived at Pakokku police station and intelligence agents have also been keeping a close watch on religious colleges since then, local said.

The troops are particularly concentrated in the Khantaw market are near Anauk-taik and have taken up positions at temporary checkpoints set up around the town.

"[The soldiers are being] positioned at the exit of Pakokku and Shwechaung village. That's why no one is going out after ten," a local resident said.

The tightening of security coincides with the run-up to the first anniversary of the violent suppression of monk-led protests in Pakokku.

On 5 September last year, Pakokku monks came out of their monasteries and took to the streets in a protest against rising commodity prices.

As the monks marched, chanting prayers, armed government troops fired warning shots into the air and beat, arrested and disrobed three monks.

Locals said the latest security measures are aimed at the monks from carrying out memorial protests.

Reporting by Aye Nai

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