100,000 Protestors Flood Streets of Rangoon in "Saffron Revolution"
The enormous show of strength drew a swift threat from the military government to "take action" against the monks, even as world leaders urged the junta to show restraint in dealing with the protests.
The monk-led protest marches in Burma against the country's brutal military government included between 10,000 and 20,000 monks in maroon robes with saffron sashes, who were constantly cheered up by tens of thousands of onlookers.
The protests lasted nearly five hours, ending with prayers at pagodas before the crowds returned to their homes.
Political dissidents based in Thailand said major protests also took place in Myanmar's second city of Mandalay, the western oil town of Sittwe, and the religious centre of Pakokku, but the reports were not confirmed.
In the first official reaction to a week of escalating protests led by the monks, state media reported that the religion minister, Brigadier General Thura Myint Maung, had issued a warning to senior clergy.
"If the monks go against the rules and regulations in the authority of the Buddhist teachings, we will take action under the existing law," state television quoted the minister as saying.
The protests began in a small way on August 19 as a demonstration against sudden increases in the price of fuel, but have daily gathered in strength. One monk group has called for the peaceful mass protests to continue until the fall of the junta.
The Buddhist clergy have never become involved in the pro-democracy movement before. Burma's 400,000-strong monkhood is publicly revered, posing a problem for the generals in how to handle the unrest.
After heavy handed efforts to put down demonstrations earlier in the month, the military junta has recently been more restrained, even allowing a large group of monks to march past the house of the detained Nobel Laureate and democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and pray with her on Saturday.
But the rapidly growing scale of the demonstrations - from a few thousand a week ago to tens of thousands over the weekend - inevitably raises fears of another attempt at suppression by a dictatorship which usually tolerates no challenge whatsoever to its authority.
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