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Protests in Myanmar Draw International Reaction

The military rulers of the South Asian nation of Myanmar threatened to crack down on continuing pro-democracy protests on Tuesday even as President Bush announced new sanctions aimed at bringing reform. Regional analysts examine where the standoff is headed.

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  • TIM EWART, ITV News Correspondent:

    Burma's monks were back on the streets today, unbowed by threats of a military crackdown. In the capital Rangoon, as many as 10,000 monks led another huge protest march. Soldiers and armed police were out in force, but after most of the demonstrators dispersed.

    Independent reporting is increasingly difficult in Burma, but one undercover journalist who watched the demonstrations believes they were the biggest so far.

  • BRITISH UNDERCOVER JOURNALIST:

    It started with an air of tension, I think, and people were tense, it's definitely fair to say towards the beginning. As it went on and they saw just how big it was and that there was apparently going to be no attempt to crush it, they seemed to relax. And there was a kind of a almost festive spirit.

  • TIM EWART:

    The protests in Burma were triggered by fuel price increases but have spread to wider grievances. Earlier this month at a rally in Pakkoku, soldiers fired over the heads of monks. They demanded an apology from the military, which was refused.

    Over the last few weeks, the protests have spread. In the country's second largest city, Mandalay, 15,000 monks marched yesterday, and similar shows of defiance have been held across Burma.

    The biggest protests are in the old capital city, Rangoon. The focal point is the Shwedagon Pagoda, immortalized by Rudyard Kipling. Marches have started here, some converging on the home of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who is under house arrest. She has reportedly now been transferred to a prison, a first sign, perhaps, that Burma's military rulers intend to get tough.

    This is their religious affairs minister, a brigadier general. He was on his knees before senior monks, but his message was ominous: If protests aren't stopped, the government will act "according to its regulations."

    More and more families have become refugees, fleeing into the safety of camps like this on the border with Thailand. The monks, meanwhile, seem determined to carry on with their protests.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    And to Ray Suarez.