YANGON, Myanmar – Myanmar lifted a curfew on Saturday and ended a ban on assembly imposed during a deadly crackdown on pro-democracy protests – the latest sign the military rulers are confident they have fully crushed the largest demonstrations in two decades.
The White House dismissed the move as “cosmetic,” a day after President Bush announced new penalties against the military-run government.
“The actions of the regime are ‘cosmetic.’ What we need are signs of serious intent to move toward a democratic transition,” presidential press secretary Dana Perino said.
The relaxing of restrictions imposed Sept. 25 was announced from government vehicles driven through the streets of Myanmar’s largest city, Yangon.
“The curfew and ban on assembly has been revoked effective today, because security and stability has improved,” according to the announcement issued from a speaker atop one of the vehicles.
It was not immediately clear if the restrictions were also lifted in Mandalay, another major city and a focus of last month’s anti-government demonstrations.
The lifting of the 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew and ban on gatherings of more than five people indicates the junta believes it has stamped out the uprising that was sparked in August by public anger at a sharp rise in fuel prices. Small protests quickly grew into anti-government demonstrations tens of thousands of people strong and spearheaded by legions of the country’s respected monks.
It was the largest showing of dissent in the tightly controlled state in nearly two decades.
The junta responded by detaining thousands of demonstrators and shooting into the crowds, killing as many as 10. Diplomats and activists say the death toll is much higher.