Five rows of maroon-robed monks, one stretching nearly a mile, marched Monday from Yangon’s Shwedagon Pagoda, the Buddhist country’s holiest shrine, to the city center where thousands of people lined the streets, Reuters reported.
“People locked arms around the monks. They were clapping and cheering,” one witness said.
The demonstrations began with sudden steep fuel price increases last month but became a wider movement against the generals, with one monk group calling for peaceful mass protests until the junta fell, according to Reuters.
The military junta’s religious affairs minister told senior Buddhist clerics to rein in the tens of thousands of monks who have marched through several cities in recent days, reported the New York Times.
Military officials, who did not respond to protesters until Monday, warned the military is prepared to crack down on the Buddhist monks.
Myanmar, formally known as Burma, is a largely Buddhist Asian country, so monks have gained support of several prominent political activists and other local celebrities.
An administration official said President Bush would announce financial sanctions on the Myanmar government during a U.N. General Assembly address Tuesday.
“Our hope is to marry that internal pressure with the external pressure coming from the United States and the United Nations and really all countries that are committed to freedom to try and force the regime to change,” national security adviser Stephen Hadley said, according to the Associated Press.
The sanctions would include a ban on visas to individuals connected with the negative aspects of the regime, he said.