YANGON, Myanmar – More than 100 Buddhist monks marched and chanted in northern Myanmar for nearly an hour Wednesday, the first public demonstration since the government's deadly crackdown last month on pro-democracy protesters, two monks said.
The monks in Pakokku made no political statements and shouted no slogans, but their march clearly was in defiance of the government and in solidarity with the earlier, anti-government rallies led by monks in many of Myanmar's cities in September.
Those demonstrations were crushed when troops fired on protesters Sept. 27-28 in a crackdown that left at least 20 people dead by the government's count, drawing international condemnation. Opposition groups says as many as 200 people may have been killed.
Pakokku, a center for Buddhist learning with more than 80 monasteries located about 390 miles northwest of the commercial center of Yangon, was the site of the first march last month by monks as they joined — and then spearheaded — the biggest anti-government protests in nearly two decades.
The protests originally started Aug. 19, when ordinary citizens took to the streets to vent anger after the government hiked fuel prices as much as 500 percent. The rallies gained momentum when Buddhist monks in Pakokku joined the protests in early September.
Reports that troops had beaten protesting monks in Pakokku on Sept. 6 rallied monks around the country to join the burgeoning marches.
On Wednesday, the monks started out at Pakokku's Shwegu Pagoda, marching for nearly an hour and chanting Buddhist prayers without incident, and then returned to their respective monasteries, two monks said in telephone interviews, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.