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Burmese Security Forces Disperse Protesters


Burmese security forces have again used gunfire to disperse thousands of anti-government protesters in Rangoon, in the third day of government crackdown that has killed at least 10 people.

Witnesses say thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators gathered Friday near the Sule Pagoda, which has been a focal point of the protests. One protester told VOA by telephone that police and soldiers used live ammunition and batons against the crowd. There were no immediate reports of injuries.

Elsewhere in Rangoon, protesters played cat and mouse repeatedly confronted, withdrew and then regrouped to engage again with security forces for hours before nightfall.

Singapore's foreign ministry says a Singapore national was injured by a rubber bullet during Friday's demonstrations in Burma. Further details about the man were not immediately available.

Burma's military government said its security forces killed nine people and wounded 11 others Thursday as authorities tried to disperse tens of thousands of pro-democracy protesters. The government said one person was killed on Wednesday. Australian Ambassador Bob Davis says the death toll is likely several times higher.

A Japanese journalist was among the dead, and there are unconfirmed reports that another Buddhist monk was killed.

In a further attempt to clamp down, residents say Burmese authorities have cut off Internet access. Media rights groups, Reporters Without Borders and Burma Media Association, say soldiers on Thursday raided hotels of foreign journalists and shut down newspapers that refused to print government propaganda.

In recent days, security forces in Rangoon and Mandalay have been raiding Buddhist monasteries and detaining monks accused of instigating the recent demonstrations.

Members of the opposition National League for Democracy also say two prominent members of the party, spokesman Myint Thein and senior member Hla Pe, were arrested Thursday.

Burmese state media accused protesters, including monks, of using intimidation and violence. The media said more than 30 security personnel were injured by bricks, sticks and knives.

The protests in Burma began last month after the military abruptly raised fuel prices by 100 percent. Protests have since expanded into countrywide demonstrations against 45 uninterrupted years of military rule.

Some information for this report was provided by Reuters.

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