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Junta further tightens telecommunications to prevent news getting out about violent suppression of protests

(SEAPA/IFEX) - The Burmese military dictatorship may be tightening the already restricted telecommunication channels in the country to prevent information about the ongoing mass protests and arrests in Rangoon from leaking out, according to SEAPA sources.

Internet users in Burma who are trying to communicate with their contacts outside the country are experiencing constantly disrupted connections, while worried friends and relatives overseas are finding it difficult to reach those inside on mobile phones.

Authorities have also confiscated the mobile phones of leaders of the pro-democracy group, 88 Generation Students, who were arrested on 22 August 2007 for spearheading protests against the recent sharp increase of fuel prices. SEAPA sources say the junta is trying to prevent international media from obtaining the latest information about the protests that have been held every day since 19 August, following the price hike that has paralysed the public transport system and drastically affected prices of essential commodities. Callers to the well-known dissidents said they received a message informing them that the government has cut off the number they are trying to reach.

With the junta's iron-fist hold on information and all channels of communication, the people rely on foreign media for the truth, even when it comes to events within the country.

SEAPA fears that the apparent moves by the Burmese junta to restrict information from reaching the international community will lead to a worsening situation for the people. Hidden from the eyes of the world as such, the repressive regime may feel emboldened to commit more acts of impunity against the peaceful protesters.

Driven to desperation by the worsening inflation in a country where 25 percent of its 47 million population are already living in poverty, about 500 citizens have been taking to the streets every day despite the risk of arrest and beatings at the hands of mobs paid by the junta.

Bystanders who fear expressing their unhappiness by the same conduct could only support those who are "speaking" on their behalf by bringing them food and water, and cheering them on with the thumbs-up sign, according to news reports.

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