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Protester burns himself at Myanmar pagoda-witnesses
TIN KYI | 26 Mar 2008

An unidentified man apparently suffering from
economic hardship in military-ruled Myanmar has set himself ablaze in
the country's historic Shwedagon Pagoda, witnesses said on Sunday.

The man in his 30s did not shout anti-government slogans, but
complained about difficulties in his life and the rising cost of
living, before setting himself ablaze on Friday's Tabaung Full Moon
Day, a significant religious day for Buddhists, witnesses said.

"It was about 8:40 when he poured petrol on his body and ignited
himself with fire from a candle," a woman who was among hundreds of
worshippers at the pagoda that night, told an eyewitness. "There was chaos
when some eyewitness shouted that there was a fire."

Security is generally tight at the pagoda, one of the holiest Buddhist
shrines in the capital of the former Burma and guards and police
quickly closed the gates of the pagoda for about a half-hour, she
said.

The pagoda has been a focal point in previous political uprisings,
including last year's pro-democracy demonstrations. A sharp spike in
fuel prices sparked the biggest protests in 20 years last August and
September, with tens of thousands of monks and civilian demonstrating
in Yangon and other cities.

The rallies prompted a brutal crackdown on protesters, in which the
United Nations says at least 31 killed.

A government medical source told Reuters the man had burns on 70
percent of his body and was being treated in a Yangon hospital, but
declined to give further details.

The opposition National League for Democracy said the protester was
not one of its members.