FEARS were raised today as eight truckloads of armed riot police moved into central Rangoon in Burma where Buddhist monks are marching.
According to a witness, the police, carrying shields, batons and rifles, were deployed in the Botataung part of the city, near the end-point of the biggest anti-junta marches in nearly 20 years.
And Britain stepped up the pressure on the military regime today as a showdown loomed.
Gordon Brown urged the ruling junta to â¿¿exercise restraintâ¿¿ and appealed to the international community to threaten tougher sanctions if the Buddhist-led revolt was met with violence.
His intervention was swiftly followed by Foreign Secretary David Milibandâ¿¿s backing for the instalment of democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi as Burmaâ¿¿s elected leader.
The toughening of the UKâ¿¿s stance was mirrored by similar expressions of concern around the world.
President George Bush tightened US sanctions against the regime this afternoon.
Up to 100,000 people led by the monks were continuing to march against their military rulers.
The monks, spearheading the country's biggest anti-government marches in nearly two decades, defied orders from the military junta to stay out of politics.
Instead they relaunched their protests in Burma's two biggest cities this morning.
About 4,000 monks, cheered on by several thousand supporters, gathered for the eighth day of peaceful protest at Rangoonâ¿¿s soaring Shwedagon Pagoda, while some 700 marched in the countryâ¿¿s second largest city of Mandalay.
The demonstrations came despite orders to the Buddhist clergy to halt all political activity and return to their monasteries.
Yesterday's march was the largest political protest against the Asian countryâ¿¿s junta since thousands were killed after a 1988 uprising.
There has been no repeat of those scenes so far, but the government has warned it is ready to â¿¿take actionâ¿¿ against those it accuses of undermining peace and security.
The protests, which began on August 19 after fuel prices soared, are picking up support by the day.
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