Almost 1,000 Buddhist monks marched through Myanmar's biggest city Thursday while protected by onlookers, keeping alive the most sustained protests against the military government in at least a decade.

The monks gathered at the golden hilltop Shwedagon pagoda, the country's most revered shrine, then headed to Sule pagoda in downtown Yangon, which they had briefly occupied the day before.

It was the third straight day the monks have marched in Yangon. As they walked, about 1,000 onlookers formed a human chain alongside them to prevent any intrusions.

No uniformed security personnel were in sight, though dozens of plainclothesmen stood by without interfering.

The monks have given new life to a protest movement that began a month ago after the government raised fuel prices, sparking anger over economic hardship in the impoverished Southeast Asian nation.

The demonstrations also reflect long pent-up opposition to the military regime and have become the most sustained challenge to the junta since a wave of student demonstrations that were put down by force in December 1996.

Monks in Myanmar, which is also known as Burma, have historically been at the forefront of protests — first against British colonialism and later military dictatorship. They also played a prominent part in a failed 1988 pro-democracy uprising that sought an end to military rule, imposed since 1962.