Following is a transcript of a Q-and-A with our producer in Yangon:
What are you seeing and hearing as the situation at this point?
The protests that occurred today were different than the ones that occurred yesterday. And I think that a lot of that had to do with the amount of violence that was inflicted yesterday on the protesters. So today we saw the military out in force in a much greater way than we’ve seen in the past couple of days. They have absolutely surrounded and shut down five on the main pagodas downtown here in Rangoon along with really occupying and really showing a strong presence on a lot of the main downtown street. (Why do some refer to this city as Rangoon, Burma and others Yangon, Myanmar? See Mark Litke’s blog entry.) So the protests that did occur happened at a number of different locations but they were not to the degree that we’ve seen in the past couple of days. What we saw were a couple of hundred people, maybe at most, gathering and then quickly disbanding when they were confronted by the military. But we’ve also heard that gunfire has been used today and a number of people have been killed.
Is there a curfew in effect and the clamp down is making it tighter so you probably won’t see the kind of crowds we’ve seen in previous days?
There is a curfew that is in effect now. It’s been in effect for the past couple of days. And that’s going to be ongoing for the next two months. So anywhere from 9pm to 5am the streets are rather desolate. But that being said everybody here is still quite hopeful for a positive outcome here. And to make that point I think a lot of people here have heard that the U.N. envoy is en route to Rangoon. So that is keeping people a little bit more positive that there might be a positive reaction to this.
The government has its own death toll but there are those who believe it’s much higher?
Yes. State-run media here is notorious for basically being a
fountain of propaganda. So there numbers are really somewhat
meaningless and can never be trusted.
The monks sort of started the protests and now you don’t
see the monks?
When these protests began they were really started by the monks. But
so many of them now have been rounded up and arrested and their
whereabouts are not really even known. So what that means is that it’s
up to the students and the citizens here to take the lead. And that’s
exactly what they’re doing.
The way that this repressive regime is getting word out has been
tough. There’s obviously concern for journalists and reports of that
they’ve even cut off the Internet to outside?
Myanmar is notorious for almost never allowing journalists inside.
Now because of what’s going on a number of journalists have been able
to slip through. And the way that they have mostly been getting out a
lot of their video footage is through the Internet. But as of today we
have just heard that Internet has been completely cut off. So what
happens next and how everybody is going to get their video footage out
now I think is still to be determined.
Just set the scene in terms of the capital is closed off… They’ve
got barbed wire and they’re kind of poised for more protests that sort
I think the military here is absolutely willing, ready and able to
do whatever it takes to either take the protesters off the streets or,
as we’ve seen, kill them. And they have really just taken over the city.
And they are out in a huge number. So I think that what they’re really
saying here is if you come out in the streets you’re really taking your
lives into your own hands.