On the evening of September 24, the government responded for the first time to the rising tide of protests. Appearing on the state-controlled MRTV television channel, the minister for religious affairs, Brigadier-General Thura Myint Maung, denounced the protests as being the work of internal and external destructionists, who are jealous of national development and stability.90 The government-controlled State Sangha Maha Nayaka Committee, promoted by the government as the supreme authority on Buddhist affairs, issued Directive 93, ordering all Sangha Nayaka committees at the state, divisional, township, and ward level to supervise the Buddhist monks and novices so that they practice only Pariyatti [study of Buddhist teachings] and Patipatti [engagement in Buddhist practices, including meditation], and prohibiting monks from participation in secular affairsin other words, a direct religious ban on the participation of the monks and novices in the protests. Monks and novices were also banned from joining illegal organizations of monks, such as the non-sanctioned All Burma Monks Association.91
Although the religious affairs ministers statement did not refer to any specific legal regulations, Burma has various laws and regulations that have long been used to prosecute protesters, however peaceful, and impose long prison sentences. A foreign observer noted large groups of riot police deploying around University Avenue in Rangoon in the evening, after the protesters had already dispersed for the day.92
On the morning of September 25, the televised warnings not to participate in further protests were re-broadcast. At 10 a.m., trucks with loudspeakers began circling the streets of Rangoon, warning the population not to engage in further protests, noting Burmas laws against unlawful assembly, and warning that demonstrators would be dealt with.93
Despite the public warnings, crowds of monks and protesters similar in size to those seen on September 24 marched again down the streets of Rangoon, chanting slogans about non-violence. The protest march began at Shwedagon Pagoda without any government interference, then went to Sule Pagoda, and then throughout Rangoon before returning to their starting point at Shwedagon Pagoda and peacefully dispersing.
Reportedly for the first time in the protests, the banned fighting peacock flag of the student movement was carried by some marchers, a symbol of great significance following the role of the students in the 1988 uprising.94
On September 25, the All Burma Monks Alliance and the 88 Generation students issued a joint statement, praising the growing protests as the biggest unity seen [in Burma] in the last twenty years. The joint statement urged the protesters to unite around the issues of economic reform, the release of political prisoners, and national reconciliation. The two groups warned that everyone should be aware of the dangers of a violent response from the authorities, citing the experience of 1988, but stressed that they were determined to continue the protests: The monks and students will join hands with all the people and continue our struggle bravely and resolutely, step by step, for our beloved country.95 The Bar Association of Burma, representing the nations lawyers, also issued a statement, calling on the authorities to seek a peaceful political solution to the legitimate demands of the people, and offering a strong rebuke to the SPDCs governance, stating that genuine politics should withstand the judgment of the people. We reject any forced politics that does not withstand the judgment of the people.96
In the evening of September 25, trucks with loudspeakers announced a nighttime curfew from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m., and told people again not to participate in the protests. U Maung Naing, an eyewitness from the Shwepyitha Township in Rangoon told Human Rights Watch about the announcements:
That night, the authorities began to arrest some of the prominent public figures who had come out in support of the protests, including the comedian Zargana, who offered alms to the monks at Shwedagon Pagoda on September 24, and the opposition politician U Win Naing; both were detained at their homes. Other prominent figures who expressed support for the protests went into hiding.98
Overnight, the Burmese military moved large numbers of military forces into Rangoon and fully deployed large numbers of riot police in the city. Su Su Hlaing recalled how she saw a large military convoy move into downtown Rangoon at 9:30 p.m.:
Militia forces, including USDA members and Swan Arr Shin, were also on the streets in large numbers, working closely with the authorities.
Crackdown at Shwedagon Pagoda
Some of the most serious violence on September 26 took place at the eastern entrance of the Shwedagon Pagoda. Human Rights Watch interviewed more than a dozen eyewitnesses present during this clash, including a senior monk, bystanders, political activists who had helped organize the protests, and shopkeepers present in the area.
When monks and civilians started gathering as usual at the Shwedagon Pagoda on the morning of September 26, they found a heavy deployment of riot police and soldiers from the 66th and the 77th Light Infantry Divisions (LID) around the pagoda.100 On the night of September 25-26, the security forces had raided the Kyae Thoon (Bronze Buddha Image) Pagoda where the monks had gathered every morning before proceeding on their marches.
Security forces had erected and were stationed behind barbwire barricades at several points along Kyaw Taw Ya Street (the main road around the eastern edge of the Shwedagon Pagoda). Plainclothes Swan Arr Shin members were also present around the pagoda, working closely with the security forces.101
Several eyewitnesses saw the director-general of the Burmese Police Force, Brigadier-General Khin Ye, who was dressed in a green army uniform, in the area of the crackdown. He appeared to be overseeing the crackdown and could be seen giving orders. Brigadier-General Khin Ye also was among the group of officials who spoke with the monks, and was seen pushing a monk away with his hands, a grave insult.102
At the eastern entrance of the pagoda, the army and riot police blocked a group of several hundred monks and civilians on the long staircase ascending to the pagoda by placing barbed wire barricades at both the bottom entrance of the stairway and the middle entrances of the stairway (at Ar Zar Ni Road). The security forces refused to allow the monks and civilians to ascend to the pagoda itself, and also refused to allow them to leave the area via Yae Dar Shae Road, instead demanding that the monks get into waiting Army trucks so they could be returned to their monasteries.103 The monks refused, afraid they would be detained, and tried to enter into negotiations with Brigadier-General Khin Ye.
At about 11:30 a.m., more soldiers from the 77th LID came to reinforce the riot police. A large crowd of students and civilians gathered around the cordoned-off monks, angry at their treatment. The security forces had earlier enraged the crowd gathered around them by entering the pagoda with their shoes on.104 They further enflamed the situation by pushing down an old monk who went up to them to request that the monks be allowed to leave. U Maung Naing, an eyewitness, told Human Rights Watch:
Violence and the use of teargas soon followed. U Theika, a monk, who was part of the group trapped by the riot police, told Human Rights Watch what happened next, at about 11:45 a.m.:
As the riot police attacked the trapped monks, the students and other protesters gathered outside the cordon tried to come to the assistance of the monks, pushing aside the barricades, and throwing stones at the attacking riot police. Two motorcycles belonging to Military Intelligence officials caught fire, either from angry protesters or from the smoke bombs fired by the security forces.108 U Maung Naing, another witness to the scene, told Human Rights Watch that the riot police responded with teargas and smoke grenades, fired rounds into the air, and began attacking the entire crowd:
A fourth eyewitness, Maung Maung Htun, gave a similar account:
While most monks and other protesters managed to escape from the security forces during the chaos, a number of monks were beaten unconscious and others were detained. Eyewitnesses reported seeing motionless monks lying on the ground following the beatings, unsure if they were dead or unconscious.111 Zaw Thein Htike, who helped organize food and water for the monks, recounted to Human Rights Watch how he had seen the riot police beat one monk, whom he believed died from the beating:
According to Zaw Thein Htike, after the monk was beaten, [t]he riot police took his body to their truck, they carried him like a dead animal after they put him on the truck, the fire brigade came and cleaned the blood. They took away all the evidence.113 Another monk at the scene, U Pauk, also recalled seeing the police drag away what appeared to be a dead monk: I saw one monk being dragged away, he was bleeding and I thought he was shot when they opened fire. He looked dead the way the riot police were dragging him.114
The riot police and soldiers detained many monks and protesters and took them away in military vehicles.115 Min Hlaing, a teacher who witnessed the beatings, recalled:
Witnesses reported seeing large numbers of detained monks and protesters being taken away from the area after the crackdown. One told Human Rights Watch he saw four small buses of detainees being driven away from the area, each with 30 to 35 persons inside, and that the vast majority of the detainees were monks.117
The protesters dispersed, but then regrouped in several different locations. They tried to make their way downtown to Sule Pagoda. Repeatedly, the groups were confronted by riot police who fired teargas at the protesters, and by army troops and large groups of Swan Arr Shin militia in civilian clothes.118 U Theika, a monk who escaped from Shwedagon Pagoda and made his way downtown recalled to Human Rights Watch: Downtown, many streets were blocked by soldiers. They followed us in trucks. We could not go straight. Sometimes, we had to change our way to avoid the soldiers. It was very difficult, but we were hopeful.119
Attacks on Protesters near Sule Pagoda
By the time protesters made their way downtown between 1 and 2 p.m., a heavy security presence had already been deployed around Sule Pagoda. This included rows of soldiers from the 66th Light Infantry Division, riot police, and Swan Arr Shin militia. Many protesters who tried to reach Sule Pagoda that afternoon were prevented from doing so by the security forces, who blocked many downtown streets, forcing protesters to turn back.
When a sizeable crowd of protesters did manage to gather around the Sule area at about 2 p.m., soldiers fired their rifles in the air and fired teargas and smoke bombs into the crowd to disperse them. Meanwhile, the Swan Arr Shin and riot police charged into the crowd, beating and detaining the protesters they could catch.
Shootings near Thakin Mya Park
Following the crackdown at Shwedagon Pagoda, a group of protesters including at least 300 monks marched from the Nyaung Doung Monastery (near Shwedagon) to downtown Rangoon, reaching the Thakin Mya Park (on the western edge of downtown, at the junction of Strand Road and Aung Yadanar Streets) at about 2 p.m. The marchers were blocked by soldiers of the 66th Light Infantry Division with four army trucks, barbed wire, and a Swan Arr Shin Toyota pickup. The soldiers ordered the marchers to disperse. Instead of obeying the order, the marchers sat down in the road and chanted traditional Buddhist prayers.
The monks and the civilians became concerned about the security of the women and children in their midst, and asked them to go home. The remaining protesters, estimated at about 900 monks and civilians, were then pushed back on Strand Road by the advancing soldiers and Swan Arr Shin. At Strand Road, the local residents clashed with the Swan Arr Shin, and after about 5 minutes of fighting in the streets, the soldiers opened fire on the marchers, shooting directly at the protesters without warning shots or using teargas.
Zaw Thein Htike told Human Rights Watch that at least four persons were hit by the bullets and fell down, and that he could see blood on their bodies. Although he could not confirm all four victims were dead, he saw the soldiers dragging away the bodies before he ran away himself.120
After the soldiers fired, the marchers ran away, but as they ran down Strand Road, they found their escape blocked by another group of soldiers belonging to the 77th LID. The soldiers began shooting into the crowd of fleeing protesters, hitting one protester in his back, who fell down. Following that shooting, some NLD members from among the protesters approached a lieutenant-colonel in charge of the 77th LID troops, and negotiated to allow the protesters to leave the area peacefully.121 Monks were allowed to leave, but the civilian marchers were held under armed guard. The eyewitness we interviewed was able to escape from the scene, but said many protesters, including women, remained under armed guard when he left the scene.122
Continued Protests on September 26
Despite the deadly shooting incidents, thousands of protesters continued to regroup and challenge the soldiers. On some occasions, stones were thrown at the soldiers, who responded with warning shots.123 At about 3 p.m., a group of protesters, many of whom had fled from the Sule Pagoda, sat down for another vigil at Anawratha Road and 32nd Street, just northeast of the Sule Pagoda. The protesters held up pictures of independence hero Gen. Aung San124 and chanted songs protesting the armys use of force against the people, such as The Army is Bogyokes [Aung Sans] army, for the people, not to kill the people and the monks! and We are Bogyoke. This government is not our government, we dont want this government.125
In the area around the Shwedagon Pagoda, a second large crowd, estimated at 20,000 people, regrouped after the Shwedagon crackdown, and marched downtown. It was able to proceed virtually unhindered. The marchers waited around the Shwedagon Pagoda for other monks to arrive from their monasteries before proceeding: the first clash at Shwedagon Pagoda had occurred before many of the monks had arrived for their scheduled daily protest march, so monks were still streaming into the area even after the crackdown was finished. The march headed eastwards along Shwegondine Road towards Tamwe Township before heading downtown. As the second march reached downtown, the organizers were informed by phone about the shooting at Sule Pagoda and found their way blocked: When we got near Sule all of the roads were blocked with barbed-wire barricades and soldiers were waiting with guns, so we couldnt go to Sule anymore.126 Instead, the protest march proceeded without incident to the Botahtaung Pagoda on the eastern edge of Strand Road. The monks went inside the pagoda to pray, and then announced they would march the next day from Kyaik Ka San Pagoda. The riot police then arrived and ordered the protesters to disperse, and they did so peacefully. At around 3:10 p.m., this same group, by now a huge, one-kilometer-long procession of monks and protesters, walked peacefully one block south of the Sule Pagoda, and then turned west to pass directly in front of the soldiers, apparently without incident.127
The total number of those killed and wounded during the violence on September 26 remains unknown. It remains unclear how many persons were killed and wounded near Thakin Mya Park. The state-controlled New Light of Myanmar newspaper admitted that soldiers had opened fire on protesters near Sule Pagoda after they refused to disperse and confronted the police with stone throwing, and reported that one man was killed and three protesters wounded.128 International wire services, citing Burmese officials, stated four persons died, including two monks who were beaten to death, and a monk and a civilian who were shot dead, although these reports do not specify where in Rangoon the deaths occurred.129
The authorities detained hundreds of monks and civilians on September 26 in various monastery raids as well as the clashes at the Shwedagon and Sule Pagodas. One individual told Human Rights Watch that he saw riot police beating and arresting protesters around Sule Pagoda, loading them into a Dyna truck filled with detainees.130 Another person reported seeing two military trucks packed with detained monks on Bogyoke Road near the Ministry of Welfare and Rehabilitation as he made his way home at about 4 p.m.131
Emptying of the Monasteries
On the night of September 26-27, government security forces maintained their dusk to dawn curfew, using the cover of darkness and the fact that residents were forced to remain inside their homes to conduct raids on dozens of monasteries around Rangoon. One of the most violent raids took place at the Ngwe Kyar Yan Monastery in South Okkalapa Township. U Khan Di a monk injured in that raid, told Human Rights Watch:
A second eyewitness to the night raid explained that a fight broke out between the monks and the soldiers raiding the monastery, with both sides throwing bricks. After the soldiers crashed the gate of the monastery, they beat the monks and the civilians under the care of the monastery with bamboo sticks, and then ordered the monks to sit down and continued to kick them with their boots. After about 90 minutes, the soldiers left, detaining an estimated 60 monks and 40 civilians.133 A woman who visited the monastery at 8 a.m. the next morning took photographs of the damage at the monastery, including bullet holes in the walls and roof of the monastery, pools of blood, and ransacked rooms. She also was told by the remaining monks that during the raid, soldiers had stolen gold and jewelry that had been donated to the monastery for future construction.134
Persistent reports claim that one monk, U Sandima, died from injuries sustained during the Ngwe Kyar Yan Monastery raid, but Human Rights Watch so far has been unable to independently confirm his death.135 Among those reportedly detained were U Uttama, the deputy abbot of the monastery, and another senior monk, U Dhammadianna.136
On the morning of September 27, approximately 50 residents from the neighborhoods that surround the monastery, as well as people from elsewhere in Rangoon who had heard the news of the raid on the BBCs Burmese news service, gathered at Ngwe Kyar Yan Monastery. Several told Human Rights Watch they were outraged by reported violence and desecration of the monastery. At about 10:30 a.m., U Arnt Maung, the retired director-general of the directorate of religious affairs, arrived at the monastery and spoke with the chief monk U Ye Wa Ta, ordering him to move the remaining monks to the Kaba Aye Monastery, so that damage from the previous nights raid could be repaired. U Ye Wa Ta reportedly refused the order, saying, I wont leave my monastery.137 U Arnt Maung then left the monastery, and U Ye Wa Ta asked all non-residents to leave the monastery and closed its doors.
Approximately one hour later at 10:30 a.m., soldiers and police officers arrived at the monastery while the monks were eating. A young novice ran from the monastery to alert residents in the neighborhood. The soldiers arrested about 12 monks from the monastery and tried to take them away in their army trucks.138 However, as the soldiers attempted to leave the area with the detained monks, they were confronted by a large crowd of angry local residents, who put up barricades near the crossing of 13th Street and Waizayandar Road, and began cursing the soldiers and throwing stones at them. According to Kyaw Zan Htike, an eyewitness:
The angry crowd effectively blocked the soldiers from leaving, trapping them at the junction of Waizayandar, Thitsar, and Kande Roads. Between noon and 1 p.m., army reinforcements from the 77th Light Infantry Division and riot police arrived in the area. The soldiers lined up in from of the protesting crowd, aiming their rifles at the protesters, and warned the crowd with loudspeakers to disperse: Article 144 [of the Criminal Code] is in effect. It is prohibited for groups of more than five persons to gather together. We have orders to shoot.140
After the warning, the soldiers shot teargas and then fired their guns directly into the crowd, wounding at least two people. The soldiers then overran the barricade, and beat the two wounded people to death. Kyaw Zan Htike, an eyewitness to the incident, told Human Rights Watch:
A second eyewitness confirmed these two killings:
Following the initial shooting and deaths of two protesters, more shootings took place further east on Thitsar Road and in the adjoining neighborhood near Basic Education High School 2 (High School 2). Many protesters had collected in the area, mixed together with the students who were being let out from their schools. The soldiers fired teargas into the crowd and then immediately fired their guns:
The eyewitness concluded that seven people diedthe two originally beaten to death and five at the subsequent shootings (he did not personally witness the 5th death) outside High School 2. He described how he had personally assisted in removing two bodies to a nearby clinic:
Maung Maung Hla, another witness at the scene, also knew about seven deaths.145 As in other crackdowns, the army, riot police, and Swan Arr Shin militias worked closely together to beat and arrest protesters. One elderly man in his sixties told Human Rights Watch how he was detained while hiding at a relatives house, and the army soldiers beat his relatives with bamboo poles. As he was being led away, a soldier came up to him and punched him twice in the face. On his way to the army truck, two Swan Arr Shin members, one armed with a metal bar and the second with a bamboo pole wrapped with barbed wire, tried to beat him but he begged them not to hit him and they desisted. As he was being loaded onto the military truck, he watched a soldier repeatedly hit a young woman detainee, her hands bound behind her back, in the face with his rifle, until blood was flowing from her face. Other detainees were also hit with rifle buts.146
Human Rights Watch has been able to confirm the deaths of eight persons during the violence around Ngwe Kyar Yan Monastery. Myo Min Htun, 22, an unmarried rickshaw driver, was shot in the head. Tun Tun Lwin, 31, also an unmarried rickshaw driver, was beaten at the protests and detained by riot police. His family was informed four days later by the ward PDC that he died in custody. Aung San Oo, 18, a student, died from a shot to the head at the junction of Kone Baung Street and Thit Sar Road. Yan Lynn Aung, 17, a student, died from a shot to the head near the junction of Thit Sar Road and Thu Min Ga Lar Street. Ko Soe Than, 42, was shot in the heart at the junction of Thit Sar Road and Thu Min Ga Lar Street. Zyar Naing, 16, a student, was shot in the chest while holding a protest flag raised on a pole, and died from his injuries. His body was taken to his parents home by rickshaw, but later taken away by the soldiers who came to his parents home at about 8 p.m. Naing Myo Aung, 20, a university student, was killed at the junction of Thitsar and Wizzayanda Roads. Than Aung, 43, was on his bicycle going to collect his children from school when he was stopped and beaten to death by soldiers and riot police. None of the families have received death certificates, although most were allowed to attend the cremation service.147
Eight persons from the Okkalapa neighborhood were confirmed to have died on September 27 by the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPPB), although the AAPPB does not describe where the deaths occurred. While five of the dead correspond to cases documented by Human Rights Watch, the other three names are different, suggesting that more people may have died. They were identified as Ko Soe Than, 41; Myo Min Htun, 22; Zayar Naing, 18; Pho Zaw, 40; Tun Tun Lin, 31; Kyaw Kyaw, 33; Than Aung, age unknown; and Ko Phyo, 30.148
The security forces also raided other monasteries during the night of September 26-27. At 4 a.m., soldiers raided the Mingalar Rama Pali University Monastery on Thein Phyu Road in Rangoon, hauling away 99 monks at the institution for breakfast, and taking them to the Government Technical Institute (GTI) where they were detained and interrogated.149 U Theika, a monk, told Human Rights Watch that he went to the monastery at 6:30 a.m. on September 27 and found the monastery surrounded by riot police and virtually deserted:
Soldiers also raided the Maggin Monastery, hauling away hundreds more monks.151 Maggin Monastery was ordered permanently closed by the Burmese authorities in late November (see below).
Shooting at Sule Pagoda
Since Shwedagon Pagoda remained completely blocked off, a crowd of protesters began gathering at the Sule Pagoda in downtown Rangoon around mid-day. The area around Sule Pagoda had a heavy security presence: the pagoda itself had been surrounded with barbed wire and occupied by soldiers and riot police, and the adjacent City Hallthe scene of some of the deadliest massacres of the 1988 crackdownhad at least a dozen military trucks from the 66th Light Infantry Division parked in front of it, plus 7 fire trucks ready for crowd control purposes. The security forces never used the fire trucks for crowd control during their crackdown on the protesters, a nonlethal method of crowd control means that, if used, could have limited the loss of lives.
The crowd sat down just meters away from the security forces who had occupied the Sule Pagoda, around the junction between Sule Pagoda Road and Anawratha Road. This was a short distance (and within easy viewing range) from the Traders Hotel, home to many United Nations agencies. Unlike many of the other crackdowns of that day, the events at Sule Pagoda were witnessed by many international observers. As the protesters sat down, they began to shout traditional protest slogans, such as the army is the army of Bogyoke [Aung San] for the people, not to kill the people and the monks, over and over again, as well as a more insulting slogan, with the words, The idiots who kill the monks, may a thunderbolt kill them.152 Initially, the crowd was quite small, but as more people sat down and joined the protesters, the numbers rapidly swelled.153 The crowd grew into the tens of thousands, but monks were virtually absent that day.154 Persons interviewed by Human Rights Watch recalled seeing less than a dozen monks at the Sule Pagoda, since most monks had been detained overnight or were forced to stay inside their monasteries.
At about 12:30 p.m., a group of three army trucks from the 66th Light Infantry Division followed by a truck with plainclothes Swan Arr Shin members turned from Bogyoke Aung San Road onto Sule Pagoda Road, approaching the crowd slowly from the north.155 The vehicles were accompanied by riot police on foot, banging their batons on their shields apparently in an attempt to scare the crowd.156 Riot police with shields, teargas, and rubber bullets also stood in formation at the other end of the crowd, at the base of the Sule Pagoda, with 66th Light Infantry Division soldiers behind them.
The army trucks approaching the crowd began to issue orders to the crowd to disperse immediately. The warnings can be heard on a videotape obtained by Human Rights Watch:
A few youth began to throw stones and bricks at the approaching security forces, but they were stopped by others in the crowd, who wanted to ensure the protests remained peaceful.158 Yen Myat Soe, who watched the events from the nearby Traders Hotel, told Human Rights Watch what he saw next:
The deliberate fatal shooting of Kenji Nagai, a Japanese video-journalist, was caught on film and aired around the world. It shows a soldier running up to Nagai, who was videotaping the events, and shooting him in the chest at point-blank range. After the shooting, the soldier picked up the camera and walked away. Groups of protesters can be seen fleeing in the background.160
Eyewitnesses also confirmed to Human Rights Watch that in addition to Nagai, others were shot dead during this incident. Yi Yi Hla, who had just gotten off a bus when the shooting started recalled seeing one man shot, and then a second man who turned out to be the Japanese journalist:
Kyaw Zin Min, another eyewitness, also saw several people shot dead at the front of the crowd, as the soldiers opened fire:
Another person present at the scene recalled seeing three bodies, that of two men and a woman, on the pavement as the crowd scattered.163
Following the shooting, the massive crowd dispersed, but groups of protesters kept trying to regroup and continue marching. A truck with stones entered the area of the protest, and was quickly stopped by some of the protesters, who threw the stones at the security forces. One eyewitness told Human Rights Watch, I saw a truck loaded with stones [near the Traders Hotel]. The workers and people threw the stones onto the road. About 30 people threw stones at the soldiers. But the stones didnt reach the soldiers who were too far away.164
Dozens of trucks with plainclothes Swan Arr Shin members arrived in the downtown area and beat and arrested protesters. The Swan Arr Shin militia, present in large numbers in the downtown area that day, were given orders over the loudspeakers to attack and detain the protesters. Kyi Kyi Soe recalled to Human Rights Watch:
At about 2 p.m., another deadly shooting incident took place as protesters walked down Pansodan Road and were confronted by riot police and army troops at the Pansodan overpass. Three monks and two students holding the red fighting peacock flag of the student movement were walking at the front of the crowd, and the soldiers opened direct fire on them. According to several eyewitnesses, one of the students holding the flag was shot in the head and died immediately, and a monk was shot in his arm.166
For the rest of the afternoon, constant clashes occurred in the downtown area as the security forces and the Swan Arr Shin sought out groups of protesters to attack and disperse. The Swan Arr Shin men were brutal with the people they managed to arrest. Kyi Kyi Su, who was watching the events from the sidewalk recalled to Human Rights Watch how she was beaten and detained:
Killings at Basic Education High School 3 (High School 3) in Tamwe
Protesters started gathering at the Kyaik Ka San Pagoda around noon on September 27. Very few monks were present, as most had been detained during the night or were confined to their monasteries by troops. All entrances to the Kyaik Ka San Pagoda were blocked by riot police, and the roads leading to the pagoda were blocked by military vehicles.168
At about 2 p.m., after waiting in vain for more monks to arrive to lead their protests, a senior monk announced his intention to march downtown. He asked all of the marchers to Just pray, dont shout, dont throw rocks. Pray for peace, and protection and love. He then led the marchers in several prayers before moving on. The group walked southward for an hour or more down Kyaik Ka San Pagoda Road and onto Lay Daungkan Road.169 When they passed Supermarket 1 on Lay Daungkan Road and turned unto East Horse Race Course Road, they found the road south of the National Library Construction Project blocked by soldiers and riot police. The soldiers ordered the protesters to disperse over megaphones. At the request of the senior monk, the crowd sat down in the road and started chanting Buddhist prayers.170
The area was very crowded, as it was just in front of Tamwe High School 3, and parents were waiting to collect their children from school. When the marchers sat down, the riot police raised their shields and began banging on them with their batons. According to one of the marchers, there were many police and soldiers together. Some of the crowd ran, but the rest all sat down and started to pray. They did not throw stones or shout slogans against the government, they just sat and prayed.171 The soldiers and the police then entered the crowd and began arresting some monks and taking them away.
A second person present on Lay Daungkan Road at the time, Thazin Aye, witnessed soldiers and riot police come out of a nearby compound and surround the group of protesters from behind. The soldiers then began firing their rifles repeatedly into the air and shot tear gas into the crowd.172 Just then, a second group of protesters arrived at the opposite (southern) side of the police barrier, and were immediately fired upon with tear gas, rubber bullets, and live ammunition by the security forces.
Min Min Oo, one of the marchers in the second group of protesters, recalled to Human Rights Watch how the soldiers fired into the crowd and pandemonium ensued:
Suddenly, a military truck belonging to the 77th Light Infantry Division drove directly into the first crowd of marchers, according to many of the witnesses interviewed by Human Rights Watch. Htun Kyaw Kyaw, a student, recalled:
A separate eyewitness, who was later detained in the same area, saw four or five bodies lying in the street as he was being led away from the area.175
As soon as the military truck had driven into the first crowd, soldiers got out and started firing, first into the air, but then directly at the fleeing civilians. Htun Kyaw Kyaw, the student, told Human Rights Watch:
The soldiers also fired teargas into the crowd. Chaos ensued, as the desperate civilians ran into the neighboring High School 3, an apartment complex, the ditches by the road, and the construction site of the unfinished national library. None of those interviewed by Human Rights Watch saw all of the violence that day, but their individual stories suggest that many people were killed in the ensuing violence.
Thazin Aye, a young woman, recounted to Human Rights Watch how she fled with a group of others onto the grounds of the National Library, and hid in the guard house. She told Human Rights Watch that she watched in horror as the security forces entered the compound and killed three of four young men right in front of her:
The student, Htun Kyaw Kyaw, remained in the street, unable to escape because of the firing, and recounted seeing the soldiers shoot a high school student in the back as he tried to climb the perimeter wall of Tamwe High School 3:
After seeing the killing of the boy, Htun Kyaw Kyaw ran to a retaining wall by some apartment buildings, behind a sewer ditch where people were hiding in. He witnessed a group of soldiers approach the ditch and fire directly at the group:
Human Rights Watch does not know how many people, if any, were wounded or killed in the ditch.
The soldiers and riot police now began systematically rounding up protesters and bystanders throughout the area, detaining hundreds, and severely beating many. One protester who hid in the roadside ditch recalled he was struck three or four times with batons on his back before being ordered to come out of the ditch, and then told to sit cross legged with his hands behind his head and look down; he heard many others screaming and crying out in pain.180 At the nearby apartment complex, riot police pulled people out of hiding and beat them with their batons. At a nearby shop, the police arrested all of the customers, assuming they had participated in the protests.
At least one other protester was killed by the soldiers. At the apartment complex, a person had hidden inside a metal drum, and was shot when he refused to come out:
The soldiers and riot police then ordered hundreds of people hiding in the apartment buildings to come out, threatening to shoot into the building:
The soldiers and riot police gathered at least 500 people in the compound. Then, the security forces ordered the detainees to board waiting public buses and a prison bus. There were so many detainees that not all of them could fit on the buses, so about 100 detainees were allowed to leave, after pledging not to participate in future protests.183 The buses were first driven around the neighborhoods several times, with loudspeakers announcing that the people on the buses were being punished for participating in unlawful demonstrations, and warning the public not to participate in demonstrations.184 They were then driven to the Kyiak Ka San race course stadium, where they remained on the buses for two hours before being allowed to descend, and were then counted. Because of the count, one eyewitness knew the detainees included 191 men, including six monks and many students in their school uniforms; and 51 women.185
The security forces then put the women and men, separated, into dark rooms at the race track. There was no medical assistance for the wounded, many of whom were crying out in pain. Only a few bottles of water were provided to the protesters. At 1:30 a.m. the next morning, the security forces loaded them onto buses and took them to the Government Technical Institute (GTI) on Lower Mingaladon Road in Insein Township, where they joined thousands of other detainees (detention conditions at GTI are discussed in chapter VII of this report).186
Based on the evidence available to Human Rights Watch, it is likely that the death toll at the Tamwe High School was among the highest of the entire crackdown. Only some of those killed near the Tamwe High School 3 have been publicly identified. According to the Democratic Voice of Burma, one of the dead was 16-year-old Maung Thet Paing Soe, a student at Tamwe High School 3, who was shot in the back of the head during the crackdown. Soldiers took away the body from the scene, but his family found and recovered the body the next day. The authorities refused to issue the family a death certificate, but the family was allowed to attend the cremation at Hteinbin cemetery on September 28.187 Tun Lynn Kyaw, another student at Tamwe High School 3, was also identified as one of those killed in front of the school on September 27.188
The SPDC, through its violent crackdown and particularly the widespread deployment of Swan Arr Shin militias throughout downtown Rangoon, managed to effectively end large-scale street protests by September 30. The violent crackdown of September 26 and 27 evoked both despair and intense rage among most of the protesters: despair as their hope for peaceful change was crushed violently, and rage at the security forces for attacking revered monks and other peaceful protesters. The protesters saw the possibility of peaceful change slip away from them, and the increasing security presence, widespread arrests, and the violence perpetrated by the security forces made it virtually impossible to organize large-scale protests. The internet was shut down, and landline and mobile phone networks were cut.189
September 28: Despair and Rage
On September 28, thousands of protesters again descended on downtown Rangoon, but were unable to congregate. Ju Ju Win, one protester who went to downtown Rangoon that day, told Human Rights Watch: On the 28th, there was no way to form groups. Every time we tried, the riot police and the soldiers approached. So I left around 2 p.m., and went home early.190 Zaw Thein Htike, another eyewitness, painted a similar picture: The whole day, the Swan Arr Shin and the soldiers came up [to groups] and arrested people. When they withdrew, the people gathered again. It was like this the whole day, from noon to 5 p.m.191
One angry crowd of several hundred protesters managed to gather at Shwe Bontha Road at about 12:30 p.m., and began openly taunting the security forces nearby, according Su Su Hlaing, one of the protesters:
At least one protester began firing his slingshot at the security forces, shattering the windshield of one of their vehicles. Incensed, the commander ordered his soldiers to find and arrest the person responsible. When the soldiers could not find the person, they instead entered a popular restaurant in the vicinity and beat and arrested the owner, and then went into a nearby internet café and arrested all of the customers.193
Around 2 p.m., soldiers also fired at a group of protesters who were heading to downtown Rangoon from the Upper Bazundaung Road.194 Another group began to march around Sule Pagoda at about 2 p.m. The crowd rapidly grew in size. As they turned into Merchant Road just south of Sule Pagoda, they found the road barricaded and were ordered to disperse immediately. Several military trucks drove into the crowd. The military trucks pushed back the protesters away from the downtown area, firing their rifles in the air.195 The soldiers and Swan Arr Shin began detaining protesters:
Min Hlaing, another protester, described the chaotic scene in downtown Rangoon on September 28, as well as the determination of the protesters to keep protesting:
On a number of occasions, the security forces fired at protesters attempting to march. At about 4 p.m., a small crowd of protesters marched down Natmauk Road, just north of Kandawgyi Lake. When they reached the Ear, Nose, and Throat (ENT) Hospital, they were dispersed by security forces who fired their gunsit is unknown whether they fired into the air or directly at the protesters.198
September 29: The streets were full of soldiers
On September 29, the UN Special Envoy for Burma, Ibrahim Gambari, arrived in Rangoon for emergency talks with the SPDC. By this time, the security forces and Swan Arr Shin had inundated the streets of Rangoon, and responded immediately to any attempt at staging protests. Naing Soe Myint, a protest organizer, who attempted to join protests that day, described his experience to Human Rights Watch:
Others who attempted to protest on September 29 had similar experiences. Shwe Thandar told Human Rights Watch:
Small groups did manage to occasionally gather and protest, but were immediately dispersed by the security forces, and many protesters were detained. At about 4 p.m., the soldiers dispersed one such small protest near Maha Bandoola Road and Bo Aung Kyaw Street by firing rubber bullets into the crowd.201
90 Root Cause of Problems is Perpetration of Internal and External Destructionists, Who Are Jealous of National Development and Stability, Some Global Powers in Collusion with Group of Destructionists From Inside the Nation Inciting Disturbances, New Light of Myanmar, September 25, 2007.
91 State Sangha Maha Nayaka Committee has Duty to Reinforce and Observe Basic Principles and Rules and Regulations and Implement Religious Matters; The Directive States all the Rules and Regulations for the Monks Prohibiting them From Participation in Secular Affairs, New Light of Myanmar, September 25, 2007; Sayadaws of Monasteries are Requested to give Ovada to Their Disciples to Stay Away from Forming, Joining, or Supporting any Illegal Sangha Organization, New Light of Myanmar, September 25, 2007; All Members of the Sangha to Strictly Follow Directives Articulated in Directive Nos. 81, 83, 85 and 65, Not To Commit Any Activities That Are Not Related to Gantha Dhura and Vipassana Dhura, Magway Sayadaw Gives Ovada to Members of the Sangha, New Light of Myanmar, September 25, 2007.
92 Eyewitness account of international observer, on file with Human Rights Watch.
95 All Burma Mons Alliance and 88 Generation Students, Joint Statement of ABMA and 88 Students, September 25, 2007.
96 Bar Union of Myanmar, Statement No. 1, September 25, 2007. Lawyers had played a significant role in the 1988 protests.
97 Human Rights Watch interview with U Maung Naing, (location withheld), October 27, 2007. Article 144 of the Burmese criminal code prohibits unauthorized assemblies.
98 Human Rights Watch interview, (name and location withheld), October 26, 2007.
99 Human Rights Watch interview with Su Su Hlaing, (location withheld), October 26, 2007.
100 One informed source told Human Rights Watch that the soldiers deployed at the Shwedagon Pagoda included the 101st and 105th Light Infantry Regiments of the 77th Light Infantry Division, ordinarily based at Intakaw. The riot police units were the #3 battalion riot police based in Shwemyayar, and the #8 battalion riot police based in Mingladon
101 Human Rights Watch interview with Shwe Thandar, (location withheld), October 27, 2007.
102 Human Rights Watch interview with Theing Gyi Khaing, (location withheld), November 9, 2007; Human Rights Watch interview with Moe Moe Aye, (location withheld), November 17, 2007.
103 Human Rights Watch interview with U Theika, (location withheld), November 2, 2007.
104 According to our religion, you must take your shoes off when entering the pagoda, but the soldiers kept their boots on. One of the monks told the soldiers to take their boots off. Starting then, they began to hit the demonstrators with long sticks. They were solid bamboo sticks, but painted black so that it looked like a rubber baton. Human Rights Watch interview with Yu Yu Myint, (location withheld), October 25, 2007.
105 Human Rights Watch interview with U Maung Naing, (location withheld), October 27, 2007. A second eyewitness recounted the same incident: The army pushed the monks in the chest, so people got angry. I saw with my own eyes. When they pushed the monks, the monk fell down, an 84-year-old monk was among them. They pushed about five monks. Human Rights Watch interview with Ju Ju Win, (location withheld), October 24, 2007.
106 Human Rights Watch interview with U Theika, (location withheld), October 27, 2007.
107 Human Rights Watch interview with Wei Wei Mar, (location withheld), October 25, 2007.
109 Human Rights Watch interview with U Maung Naing, (location withheld), October 27, 2007.
110 Human Rights Watch interview with Maung Maung Htun, (location withheld), October 30, 2007.
111 According to an opposition news service, a medical source at Rangoon Central Hospital confirmed that three severely beaten monks from the Shwedagon incident were brought to the hospital. Bloody Sabbath: Over 100,000 people in Rangoon and parts of Burma Protest, Mizzima News, September 26, 2007.
112 Human Rights Watch interview with Zaw Thein Htike, (location withheld), October 25, 2007.
113 Human Rights Watch follow-up interview with Zaw Thein Htike, (location withheld), November 10, 2007.
114 Human Rights Watch interview with U Pauk, (location withheld), October 27 and 28, 2007.
115 Human Rights Watch interview with Ju Ju Win, (location withheld), October 24, 2007.
116 Human Rights Watch interview with Min Hlaing, (location withheld), October 2 and October 3, 2007.
117 Human Rights Watch interview, (name and location withheld), November 9, 2007.
118 Human Rights Watch interview with Zaw Thein Htike, (location withheld), October 25, 2007.
119 Human Rights Watch interview with U Theika, (location withheld), November 2, 2007.
120 Human Rights Watch interview with Zaw Thein Htike, (location withheld), October 25, 2007.
123 At least 17 Monks Injured in Myanmar, Agence France Presse, September 26, 2007.
124 Aung San was the founder of Burmas modern army and the father of Burmas independence and is revered by many in the Burmese Army as well as the pro-democracy movement. He was also the father of Aung San Suu Kyi.
125Human Rights Watch interview with Su Su Hlaing, (location withheld), October 26, 2007.
126 Human Rights Watch interview (name and location withheld), October 2 and 3, 2007.
127 Eyewitness account of international observer on file with Human Rights Watch.
128 Protesters Throw Stones at Members of Security Forces and Use Catapults; Two Senior Police, Six Others Wounded; One Protester Killed, Three Wounded, New Light of Myanmar, September 27, 2007.
129 At Least Four Killed, 100 Hurt in Burma Crackdown, Agence France Presse, September 26, 2007.
130 Human Rights Watch interview with Su Su Hlaing, (location withheld), October 26, 2007.
131 Human Rights Watch interview with Zaw Thein Htike, (location withheld), October 25, 2007.
132 Human Rights Watch interview with U Khan Di, (location withheld), September 28, 2007. Many of the remaining monks escaped arrest by fleeing into the neighboring civilian homes.
133 Burmese Soldiers Raid Monastery and Beat Monks, The Nation, September 27, 2007.
134 Human Rights Watch interview (name and location withheld), November 30, 2007.
135 Burma Protests: The Situation on September 27, Irrawaddy, September 27, 2007.
136 Burmese Soldiers Raid Monastery and Beat Monks, The Nation, September 27, 2007.
137 Human Rights Watch interview (name and location withheld), September 28, 2007.
138 Human Rights Watch interview with Maung Maung Hla, (location withheld), October 5, 2007.
139 Human Rights Watch interview with Kyaw Zan Htike, (location withheld), November 22, 2007.
142 Human Rights Watch interview with Maung Maung Hla, (location withheld), October 2007.
143 Human Rights Watch interview with Kyaw Zan Htike, (location withheld), November 22, 2007.
145 Human Rights Watch interview with Maun Maun Hla, (location withheld), October 2007.
146 Human Rights Watch interview with Maung Maung Hla, (location withheld), October 2007.
147 Human Rights Watch interviews with witnesses, (location withheld), November 30, 2007.
148 AAPPB, List of Persons Deaths, http://www.aappb.org/died_sept_07.html (accessed December 3, 2007).
149 Account of monk on file with Human Rights Watch.
150 Human Rights Watch interview with U Theika, (location withheld), November 2, 2007. The witness told Human Rights Watch that he believed the raid had taken place in the night of September 25-26 but other witnesses stated that the raid had taken place on the night of September 26-27.
151 AAPPB, Monasteries Raided since September 26, 2007, http://www.aappb.org; Rangoon Under Siege, Irrawaddy, September 27, 2007.
152 Video clip translation on file with Human Rights Watch; Human Rights Watch interview with Su Su Hlaing, (location withheld), October 25, 2007; Human Rights Watch interview with Kyaw Zwa Oo, (location withheld), October 27, 2007; Human Rights Watch interview with U Maung Naing, (location withheld), October 27, 2007.
153 Human Rights Watch interview with Ju Ju Win, (location withheld), October 24, 2007.
154 Rangoon Under Siege, Irrawaddy, September 27, 2007 (estimating the crowd at 70,000). An international observer counted only eight monks among the crowd.
155 Video clip on file with Human Rights Watch; Human Rights Watch interview with Ju Ju Win, (location withheld), October 24, 2007.
156 Video clip on file with Human Rights Watch.
157 Translation of video clips on file with Human Rights Watch.
158 Human Rights Watch interview with U Main Naing, (location withheld), October 27, 2007.
159 Human Rights Watch interview with Yen Myat Soe, (location withheld), October 12, 2007.
160 Photographs on file with Human Rights Watch.
161 Human Rights Watch interview with Yi Yi Hla, (location withheld), October 7, 2007.
162 Human Rights Watch interview with Kyaw Zin Min, November 11, 2007.
163 Human Rights Watch interview with Yu Yu Myint, (location withheld), October 25, 2007.
164 Human Rights Watch interview with Su Su Hlaing, (location withheld), October 26, 2007.
165 Human Rights Watch interview with Kyi Kyi Soe, (location withheld), October 23, 2007.
166 Human Rights Watch interview with Thazin Aye (location withheld), October 2007.
167 Human Rights Watch interview with Kyi Kyi Soe, (location withheld), October 23, 2007.
168 Human Rights Watch interview with Min Hlaing, (location withheld), October 27 and October 28, 2007.
169 Human Rights Watch interview with Thein Gyi Khaing, (location withheld), October 10, 2007.
170 Ibid; Human Rights Watch interview (name and location withheld), October 27 and 28, 2007.
171 Human Rights Watch with Thazin Aye, (location withheld) October 27, 2007.
172 Human Rights Watch interview, (name and location withheld), October 27, 2007.
173 Human Rights Watch interview with Min Min Oo, (location withheld), November 11, 2007.
174 Human Rights Watch interview with Htun Kyaw Kyaw, (location withheld), October 28, 2007.
175 Human Rights Watch interview with Thein Gyi Khaing, (location withheld), October 10, 2007.
176 Human Rights Watch interview with Htun Kyaw Kyaw, (location withheld), October 28, 2007.
177 Human Rights Watch interview with Thazin Aye, (location withheld), October 23 and November 1, 2007.
178 Human Rights Watch interview with Htun Kyaw Kyaw, (location withheld), October 28, 2007.
180 Human Rights Watch interview with Thein Gyi Khaing, (location withheld), October 10, 2007.
181 Human Rights Watch interview with Htun Kyaw Kyaw, (location withheld), October 28, 2007.
183 Ibid; Human Rights Watch interview with Thein Gyi Khaing, (location withheld), October 10, 2007.
184 Human Rights Watch interview with Thein Gyi Khaing, (location withheld), October 10, 2007.
187 Family Speaks About Teen Protesters Death, Democratic Voice of Burma, October 19, 2007.
188 AAPPB, List of Persons Deaths, http://www.aappb.org/died_sept_07.html (accessed December 3, 2007).
189 Andrew Marshall, Blood, Robes And Tears: A Rangoon Diary, Time, October 22, 2007; OpenNet Initiative, Pulling the Plug. A Technical Review of the Internet Shutdown in Burma, ONI Bulletin, October 2007.
190 Human Rights Watch interview with Ju Ju Win, (location withheld), October 24, 2007.
191 Human Rights Watch interview with Zaw Thein Htike, (location withheld), October 25, 2007.
192 Human Rights Watch interview with Su Su Hlaing, (location withheld), October 26, 2007.
194 Human Rights Watch interview with Htun Kyaw Kyaw, (location withheld), October 28, 2007.
195 Eyewitness account of international observer on file with Human Rights Watch.
196 Human Rights Watch interview with Shwe Thandar, (location withheld), October 27, 2007.
197 Human Rights watch interview with Min Hlaing, (location withheld), October 27 and 28, 2007.
198 Human Rights Watch interview with Yu Yu Myint, (location withheld), October 25, 2007; Human Rights Watch interview with Kyaw Zwa Oo, (location withheld), October 27, 2007.
199 Human Rights Watch interview with Naing Soe Myint, (location withheld), October 31, 2007.
200 Human Rights Watch interview with Shwe Thandar, (location withheld), October 27, 2007.
201 Human Rights Watch interview with Zaw Thein Htike, (location withheld), October 25, 2007.