Myanmar Monks Said to Free Hostages

September 6, 2007

Author: Staff Writer

Source: New York Times

Wire Service: AP

YANGON, Myanmar (AP) -- Buddhist monks seized government officials and burned their vehicles Thursday in an angry response to soldiers manhandling them during a protest against rising prices in Myanmar, witnesses said.

Using force against the country's highly respected monks infuriates ordinary people, making such unrest one of the military government's greatest fears. Hundreds of protesting residents surrounded the monks' monastery in the northern town of Pakokku, delaying the officials' release for hours and forcing them to leave through a back door.

''Bystanders cheered as the monks torched the cars one by one,'' a local activist who witnessed the events said when contacted by telephone.

The developments prompted an announcement on state radio and television evening newscasts blaming the monks for causing violence -- state media's first direct reference to three weeks of demonstrations against rising prices for fuel and consumer goods.