V. The Crackdown

The Government Acts to End the Protests

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 affairs”—in 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 minister’s 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

The Last Day of Peaceful Protests: September 25

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 Burma’s 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 nation’s 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

September 25-26: The Crackdown Begins

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:

On the night of the 25th, at 11 p.m., the ward Peace and Development Council and USDA went around and announced the curfew. They said not to go out from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m., not to gather in groups of more than five people, and not to demonstrate by marching around town. They said not to join the monks, stating “The monks’ marches are not the concern of the people.” The announcement was made by loudspeaker. They mentioned it was law [article] 144 [prohibiting unlawful assemblies], but I am not sure what that means.97

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.:

I was on Anawratha Road where my relative’s house is. I heard some engine noise, and everyone went to look at the road. We saw military trucks going from Sule to Shwedagon. I think they were preparing for security [the crackdown]. I saw nine trucks, they were full of soldiers.99

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:

There was an old monk, over 80-years-old, who requested that the [riot police] make way for the group. At that time, an officer with one star on his rank pushed the monk down. Many people were angry and ready to fight. The monks told the people to calm down. They told the people not to be violent and destroy our aim. The people and others tried to help up the old monk who had fallen.105

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.:

Every way was blocked by barbed-wire barricades, behind which were the riot police. About seven monks and I talked with the riot police about opening a way for us to march peacefully. We asked them to let the people march, but the commander did not allow it. He said that not more than five people could gather. The monks, students, and other people sat down and recited metta prayers. We talked with the authorities for nearly one hour. After that discussion, we were still not allowed to march…

The riot police began to grab the students. We told the riot police not to touch the people, telling them, “Where is your love for the people?” But after that, I knew the police would use violence. The monks began to wet their robes with water, and the people wet their handkerchiefs to protect them from the teargas. When one monk climbed the fence [on the side of the staircase], others followed. While they were climbing, the riot police came and began beating the people…they were using police batons to beat us. I was beaten in the stomach, and some monks were beaten on the head until they were bleeding, they had to cover their wounds with their robes.106

A second witness, “Wei Wei Mar,” a bystander, gave Human Rights Watch a similar account of what she saw:

The riot police, soldiers, and the monks came face to face for a few minutes. The senior monks called for people to sit and pray. Several minutes later, three or four dozen monks sat down to pray, but others started to flee by trying to climb over the wall of the monastery. The riot police and the soldiers started to beat the monks who were sitting and praying, using their batons. They did so ruthlessly and then loaded them into cars. Thugs from Swan Arr Shin helped the police to make the arrests.

More monks escaped into the monastery. Soon after the riot police started beating the monks, they discharged teargas and fired about nine shots into the air. The riot police and the soldiers were intentionally beating the monks on their heads, and we saw monks with head wounds and blood-stained robes. When the people watching saw these beatings they were surprised and angry, people were crying out in disbelief….Some monks and ordinary people got wooden sticks and stones and went to fight back against the security forces.107

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:

After the riot police began to hit the monks, they threw teargas canisters. The people moved back, the group broke down….After the teargas, I heard gunshots, but I couldn’t see who was firing—I heard these shots five or six times….We ran to the sides, I had to climb over a wall. I saw riot police beating the people before the stairway. They hit the people with green bamboo sticks and batons, they were beating them on the heads and shoulders. They hit people randomly, but mostly on the heads and shoulders. The monk who had helped up the old monk got an injury on his head. Blood was coming out. Then I couldn’t see anymore, I had no time to look back.109

A fourth eyewitness, “Maung Maung Htun,” gave a similar account:

They hit the people with rubber batons, they beat them. They hit their whole bodies, especially the head and back. The people ran away chaotically. I didn’t know where to run. I saw smoke from the teargas, but was not affected because I was farther away. I heard people scream. I heard gunshots, but I do not know if anyone was injured. I cannot count how many gunshots I heard, but it sounded like automatic fire.110

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:

I saw a monk holding a flag go up to the riot police and get hit. Other monks were running away. At the front of the eastern entrance, the monk holding the flag was beaten to death. I don’t know who that monk was, but I could clearly see the three riot police who were beating the monk. Some held rubber batons and others held thick bamboo sticks for the beatings. I was not far from them.

The monk came up from the street alone and when he arrived at the entrance, he was beaten. At first the riot police didn’t notice or do anything about him…they never said anything to him, just started beating him. It happened very fast. One hit him at [the base] of his head, another hit him in the front of the knees. The third one grabbed the flag and it broke. Then, he hit him continuously in the throat with his baton.112

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:

When we withdrew, I heard that some monks and people were arrested. When I was waiting at Kandawgyi junction, the arrested people and monks were taken by Swan Arr Shin on Dyna trucks and the riot police guarded the backs of the trucks. When we were at the corners, we saw the cars and some protesters shouted [at the security forces and the Swan Arr Shin], “Dogs! We don’t care! We are not afraid of you!” I saw three Dynas, but I can’t be sure if they were all full with arrested people because maybe they were mixed with Swan Arr Shin, who were not wearing uniforms, just plain clothes.116

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 army’s use of force against the people, such as “The Army is Bogyoke’s [Aung San’s] army, for the people, not to kill the people and the monks!” and “We are Bogyoke.  This government is not our government, we don’t 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 couldn’t 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

September 27: Attacks on and Emptying of the Monasteries

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:

The raid at the monastery was around 1 a.m. The soldiers shouted to open the monastery gates, and then broke the gate open by hitting it with their truck when no one came to open. Shouting loudly, they were throwing teargas and firing their automatic guns into the buildings of the monastery, and used their batons to beat the monks whenever they saw them. Many monks ran away, climbing into the trees nearby and escaping by hiding in the houses of the neighborhood. I was injured in the head when I was hit by baton charges. I saw pools of blood, shattered windows, and spent bullet casings on the floor when I came back to the monastery in the morning. We found about 100 monks missing out of 230 monks. They took our money and jewelry, and other valuable things they found at the monastery.132

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 BBC’s 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 night’s raid could be repaired. U Ye Wa Ta reportedly refused the order, saying, “I won’t 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 people were shouting and cursing. They said, “We want to go see inside the monastery.” Some were using rude words, like “Fuck you.” The people threw stones and sticks, almost everyone was throwing things. They surrounded the monastery area and were angry, so they began to throw stones.

At the time, there were only 15 soldiers at the [Thitsa Road] junction. The people were carrying [tree trunks and lamp posts] and laying them across the street. …the crowd was bigger than the [original one]. Maybe there were 10,000 people, because the whole township was there.139

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:

After the warnings, the soldiers in the first row shot teargas into the crowd. Five soldiers shot the teargas. They began shooting immediately after the announcement. People ran in all directions. Twenty soldiers came over the barricade, climbed over, and started beating the people. Two people died….It was not like in the movies. When the soldiers beat those people, they were trying to kill them. They beat them on the head and the abdomen.

Then, they were dragged to the junction, while still being beaten. The two were middle-aged men. I do not know if they were conscious or not [at this stage]. The soldiers pulled them by their legs over the barricade…they put the two bodies next to their trucks. People saw this and became angry.141

A second eyewitness confirmed these two killings:

At around 12:30 p.m., four army trucks came from the east on Thitsar Road from behind the crowd. They shot four single shots over the crowd, so the crowd opened up. The soldiers joined the stranded soldiers at the junction of Wizzayanda.

At about 1:30 p.m., they started to disperse the crowd by shooting in the air over the crowd, mainly along Thitsar Road. I estimate they shot more than 500 rounds in the air. The soldiers then charged forward to a small bridge and started shooting…two were wounded nearby and they were beaten to death with bamboo poles. [Later], I saw the two bodies that had died closest to the junction [being held by the soldiers.]142

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 people who had scattered gathered again on Thitsa Road. At the same time, High School 2 was letting out; it was around 2:30 p.m. The students from the school joined the crowd. The soldiers shot teargas three times into the crowd.

After that, they shot three [salvos] with their guns. Some people in the crowd were killed. They shot three people in the foreheads and their skulls exploded in the back, one of them was hit in the temple. These three were middle-aged persons. One child was shot in the chest [and died].

When they fired the teargas, the gunshots came immediately after. The teargas had not yet even hit the ground, so the people still stood facing the soldiers. The child [Zyar Naing, age 16] who was shot was a standard 10 student. He had just changed out of his uniform into street clothes. For the three shot in the head, brain matter came out and was lying in the street.143

The eyewitness concluded that seven people died—the 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:

All together, seven people died. We got a trishaw and took two of the bodies to Min Min clinic on Thistsa Road. The doctor there said they were already dead. The other three bodies were taken by residents from Inwa Street, and were sent to Thingangyun Township, to San Pya Hospital. Later, the two bodies at Min Min clinic were also taken to San Pya Hospital. That was around 5 to 6 p.m. I was on the way to San Pya Hospital [accompanying the bodies] and heard the soldiers still shouting to the people to disperse.144

“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 relative’s 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:

When I went there, I found only one monk. He had hidden and escaped. He said that during the night all the monks were arrested and taken away at midnight. There was no one left but him….I saw the monastery was in disarray, everything was scattered. I saw small pools of blood. At the time [of the raid], 200 monks lived there...It seemed like the monks were arrested while they were sleeping. The mosquito nets were still covering the mats and bedding, the bedding was still in place. The monk’s robes were scattered everywhere…the monk told me that the monks were beaten and taken at night.150

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 Hall—the scene of some of the deadliest massacres of the 1988 crackdown—had 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.

Riot police near the Sule Pagoda with Swan Arr Shin members prepare to charge protesters on September 27, 2007. © 2007 Private

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:

Only 10 minutes [to disperse] will be given, only 10 minutes will be given, only 10 minutes will be given. If you do not obey, we will take effective action. The people who gathered on the left and the right of the road [protesting] against the national government [are violating] Article 144 [ban on unlawful assemblies]. If 144 is broken, effective action will be taken. If you do not go back to your place, your region quietly, you will be followed and investigated, and action will be taken.157

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 military tried to disperse the crowd with loudspeakers, saying the people had 10 minutes to disperse or they would shoot. Not many people tried to leave then. A few minutes later, they started shooting in the air. Some people got scared and tried to run, but when they realized the soldiers were only firing in the air, most of them returned.  Then, a few minutes later, they shot directly into the crowd. First they shot teargas but then they shot directly into the crowd, using live ammunition [and rubber bullets].

People started to run away, the police started to chase them and began beating people. This is when the Japanese journalist was shot—the soldiers were the ones who fired. In addition to the Japanese journalist, two other people fell, including a woman. The Japanese journalist was a bit farther away, the others were a few meters before him.159

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:

I got off from a bus at the corner of Sule Pagoda Road and Anawratha Road at around 2 p.m. The army started shooting and I saw a man get shot and fall to the ground as I was getting off the bus. I then saw another man fall to the ground as the soldiers were advancing—I thought he was Caucasian, but I later learned that he was a Japanese journalist. Burst of gunfire continued for about three minutes as I ran north up Sule Pagoda Road.161

“Kyaw Zin Min,” another eyewitness, also saw several people shot dead at the front of the crowd, as the soldiers opened fire:

The soldiers shouted to the people with their loudspeaker, ordering them to scatter: “We have an order to shoot. If you don’t scatter, we will have to shoot.”

Then they counted from 10 to one. When they counted, the people shouted back that they didn’t care, and weren’t afraid. After they counted, they started firing their guns and also shot smoke bombs. People started running away, and those left behind were beaten by the riot police. I saw three or four students were shot and killed including those holding the [fighting peacock flags]. …When I heard the shooting, those students fell down. They didn’t move. People started running everywhere, and so did I.162

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 didn’t 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:

The Swan Arr Shin were then ordered over a loudspeaker to form a line and to charge forward and attack the protesters. They looked very aggressive and angry. They moved rapidly towards the crowd and beat everyone within their reach. They were brutal towards the people, hitting them countless times on their bodies with their rubber, wooden, and bamboo sticks.

I saw many people fall down on the street and men in civilian clothes ran towards the wounded people, arrested them, and took them in Dyna trucks. Those who couldn’t walk anymore were dragged to the trucks. This stirred up more anger in the protesters, who responded by attacking the security [with rocks] and the soldiers aimed their guns at the crowd. The riot police shot at the crowd with slingshots. People used stones and bricks to attack the soldiers.165

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:

A middle-aged man in civilian clothing ran up to me very quickly and immediately struck me in the face and head while I was sitting down. I fell down into the street, and the man continued to beat me on the back, shoulders, and hands. I tried to get up to protect myself, but he struck me in the legs, causing me to fall down again in the street. I was bleeding from my head and my mouth. Then I was dragged to a car by the Swan Arr Shin, and inside the car the policeman ordered me to put my hands on my head and to keep my head down. Then we were taken to City Hall.167

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, don’t shout, don’t 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:

All of the soldiers were shooting. The soldiers who shot were at the front [barricade]. The bullets were like rain. I saw so many people fall down. Someone standing beside me was shot in his side, I never saw such bleeding: the blood was flowing like water. Others were shot in their legs, on their arms, and in their heads. The shooting was for 10, 15 minutes.

The houses on the side of the road are two-story [apartments]. At first, the gates of the houses were open, so many people ran into the houses after being shot at. After this, the house owners closed the gates, so we couldn’t get in. I had to climb a wall and go under barbed wire, many people were doing this and helping each other. People were still being shot. I injured my hand on the barbed wire and ripped my pants. All of the people went into the houses and climbed up the staircases. People were blocked at the top of the stairs. I was at the top of the stairs with 15 people, then we could no longer see anything.

The soldiers also shot into the staircases. They opened the gates, and seven came inside and shot at the houses and told us to come down. A girl in my group was injured then [by ricocheting debris]. The soldiers were using both rubber bullets and regular bullets.173

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:

The military trucks entered by hitting the people. People were fleeing on both sides. I saw three people lying in the road; I saw when they were hit: It was a big military truck and it moved quickly into the group, the three people were hit directly in front of the truck. They were lying down.174

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:

After they hit the three people, the soldiers stopped the truck and got out. The soldiers had the number 77 on their armbands [signifying 77th LID]. They started to shoot into the sky. They shot the people…the riot police were not with them, there were just soldiers. There was no announcement or warning before they started shooting.

The road was full of people. After shooting in the air for three-four minutes, they began to shoot the people. They had shot four-five times in the air. Then, they walked into the crowd. They did not fire continuously. It was one shot and then the next. I was still in the middle of the road.176

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:

My friends and I ran away [into the National Library building site]. I saw seven people hiding in the tall grass on the north-eastern corner of the compound. Three or four others ran across the compound and may have escaped. After about 45 minutes, Swan Arr Shin informers entered the compound and told the soldiers there were people hiding there. The soldiers entered from the east and western edges of the compound and split into four groups. …

We were so frightened. My two friends were crying loudly, and I was so frightened that the soldiers would find us. Then the informers pointed to the grass. Seven young people were hiding there. They got up and ran, but the soldiers started firing into their backs. They were only able to run six or seven steps before they fell. Three or four of the young boys aged around 20 to 22, were gunned down straight away. The others tried to run but were caught and taken away in the military cars.177

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:

I saw one boy climb the wall of High School 3…there were four or five other people climbing the wall with him but they were not shot. One soldier had aimed at the people. I heard the gunshot, it hit the boy in the middle of his back. Blood came out of his wound, and then he fell. The boy fell back and died on the spot without making any noise. 178

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:

I heard the gunfire, it was directly in front of me. The sewer ditch is covered in some places, open in others. When I heard the shots, I ran back into the stairway of the building. 

What I saw was three or four soldiers, they were wearing the number 77 on their armbands. I saw one soldier aim at the people in the ditch and cock his rifle. Then I heard a gunshot, just one shot. Then I heard two shots fired into the compound behind me, I didn’t see [where they hit]. There were maybe 100 people in that ditch.179

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 soldier yelled, “Come out! If you don’t come out, we will shoot!” The soldier yelled three or four times. There was only one soldier, the others were arresting people. The person who was hiding did not come out, he was shaking and his knees were hitting the side of the drum [from fear]. He didn’t say anything. I saw this with my own eyes: Then, the soldier shot through the drum. The drum became still, and there was no more noise.181

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 ordered the people hiding to come down or they would shoot, and they shot into the wall…We all went down the stairs. The soldiers and riot police beat us, shouting at us to go faster. They ordered us to put our hands behind our heads and to lie face down on the ground. People hiding in the other buildings were also coming down. Those arrested on the road were brought into the compound.

At the time, a girl wasn’t sure whether to lie down or stand up. A riot police [officer] hit the girl on the side of her face with his baton. The girl collapsed. She was in her twenties – there was blood running down her face, and her skull might have been broken. I’m not sure if she died. No one was able to help her. If we put our heads up, they would hit us and kick us with their boots.182

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

Order Through Violence: September 28-29

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:

The people were cursing at the soldiers. Whenever the soldiers aimed their guns, the people would run away, but the soldiers didn’t shoot. The people were shouting things like, “You killed monks and ordinary people, and you will suffer because of it! Your fathers will be in heaven, but you will suffer because you are the one who shot.” The people were clapping. Others began to challenge the soldiers. One woman yelled, “You men—if you have courage, put down your weapons and fight me [with your hands].” Then, one after the other, people challenged the soldiers. Some people lifted their longyis [sarong] showing their private parts [to the soldiers]. This lasted 30-45 minutes.192

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:

When the trucks stopped, the people went in all directions. There were some people who remained behind. The soldiers grabbed them by their necks and threw them into the trucks. Demonstrators were not the only ones arrested; bystanders also. They arrested everyone they saw. They were mostly soldiers and Swan Arr Shin.196

“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:

We gathered near Sule around 2 p.m. When we started gathering, there were 1,000 to 2,000 of us. When they shot at us, we ran away and became different small groups gathering in other places again. It was like that again and again. Whenever we gathered in one place, the security forces came and took the place. There was also a Swan Arr Shin car whenever they chased the people away.

At around 3 p.m., they shot rubber bullets at us. When they shot, they chased us. So when they chased, the protesters had to run away. The way that I knew they were coming into the crowd was that I could hear their rubber bullets hitting the shop doors, so we would run into the side streets.

At around 4 p.m., we protested on Bogyoke Aung San Road, again gathering from different groups. People always came back together.197

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 guns—it 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:

At 12:30, I took a bus to go downtown, but we couldn’t reach downtown, only as far as the Thamada (President) Theater [because of roadblocks]. So, from there, I crossed the bridge to the Traders hotel. When I arrived, I didn’t see any [protesters], but many, many soldiers and police holding hard green bamboo sticks. I went on Sule Road and saw many soldiers in front of Traders Hotel, and also many riot police. Across the street, many soldiers and some riot police were lined along the road. Also, the traffic platform in the middle of the intersection was full of soldiers. Along Bogyoke Aung San Road near the Buddhagyi bus station, there were many soldiers…

I went along the road among the soldiers. If the soldiers saw three people come together, they would ask the people what they were doing. It was like they were ready to arrest anyone that they even suspected…I looked at the situation, and there were no NLD, no CRPP and no monks...

[A group of youth unfurled a banner on the bridge over the road, and people clapped]. I saw three Swan Arr Shin who followed the [protesters]. They arrested three young guys. …At the corner, the young guys were kicked with army boots in their faces and punched by three soldiers…Then the Swan Arr Shin pointed at me…I thought I was in trouble and that I should leave before I was arrested.199

Others who attempted to protest on September 29 had similar experiences.  ”Shwe Thandar” told Human Rights Watch:

At 1 p.m., I went downtown to check if there were any demonstrations, but I didn’t find any because there were military trucks, and the soldiers and Swan Arr Shin were walking around the streets. They were occupying every corner. At the bridges downtown, the Swan Arr Shin were there with sticks in their hands. The whole downtown was quiet, but young people were walking around trying to gather [and protest].200

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.

93 Ibid.

94 Ibid.

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.

108 Ibid.

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.

121 Ibid.

122 Ibid.

123 “At least 17 Monks Injured in Myanmar,” Agence France Presse, September 26, 2007.

124 Aung San was the founder of Burma’s modern army and the father of Burma’s 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.

140 Ibid.

141 Ibid.

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.

144 Ibid.

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, (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,; “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.

179 Ibid.

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.

182 Ibid.

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.

185 Ibid.

186 Ibid.

187 “Family Speaks About Teen Protester’s Death,” Democratic Voice of Burma, October 19, 2007.

188 AAPPB, List of Persons Deaths, (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.

193 Ibid.

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.