Source AP ©

Myanmar police fire tear gas Buddhist monks protesters

Security forces fired warning shots and tear gas canisters while hauling militant Buddhist monks away in trucks Wednesday as they tried to stop anti-government demonstrations in defiance of a ban on assembly.

The junta had banned all public gatherings of more than five people and imposed a nighttime curfew following eight days of anti-government marches led by monks in Yangon and other areas of the country, including the biggest protests in nearly two decades.

A march toward the center of Yangon followed a tense confrontation at the city's famed Shwedagon Pagoda between the protesters and riot police who fired warning shots into the air, beat some monks and dragged others away into waiting trucks. Tear gas was also employed.

About 5,000 monks and 5,000 students along with members of the party headed by detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi set off from Shwedagon to the Sule Pagoda in the heart of Myanmar's largest city but were blocked by military trucks along the route.

Other protestors at the Sule Pagoda were confronted by warning shots.

Some carried flags emblazoned with the fighting peacock, a key symbol of the democracy movement in Myanmar. The march proceeded quietly with protestors praying rather than chanting.

About 100 monks stayed behind at the eastern gate of the Shwedagon, refusing to obey orders to disperse after riot police there failed to dislodge them despite employing tear gas, batons and warning shots.

Witnesses said an angry mob at the pagoda burned two police motorcycles.

Soldiers with assault rifles had earlier blocked all four major entrances to the soaring pagoda, one of the most sacred in Myanmar, and sealed other flash points of anti-government protests.

A comedian famed for his anti-government jibes became the first well-known activist rounded up following the protests.