A mob of about 200 people attacked a motorcade carrying Aung San Suu Kyi and other pro-democracy leaders with fists and sticks Saturday, smashing windows and denting the cars. No one was seriously injured.
The Nobel Peace Prize winner said the attack was orchestrated by the government, which otherwise strictly enforces a ban on large public gatherings. If so, it would be an escalation in the military regime's campaign to keep Suu Kyi from meeting with her supporters.Suu Kyi and witnesses said security personnel stood by and did not intervene during the brief attack.
Mobs of tough-looking men roamed Rangoon's streets Saturday, in a move obviously meant to intimidate Suu Kyi's supporters from gathering near her home for her regular weekend address.
The crowds were directed by well-dressed men with walkie-talkies, which may only be carried by security personnel in Burma, where unregistered possession of even a fax machine or modem is punishable by several years' imprisonment.
"We have been hearing that people have been brought in, told to come in, and they have carefully arranged for some kind of trouble," Suu Kyi said of the roving mobs. "The authorities are using these people to intimidate us or harm us physically."
Suu Kyi has been giving the weekend pro-democracy addresses since she was released from six years of house arrest in July 1995. Officials recently started blocking the road to her house, so she has gone to intersections elsewhere in the city to hold hurried meetings with small groups of followers.
Suu Kyi told a news conference Saturday her motorcade was attacked Saturday afternoon as she and two other top leaders of the National League for Democracy, Kyi Maung and Tin Oo, left Kyi Maung's house in two cars.
She said one man peered into her car and signaled to a crowd, some of whom shouted "strike" and "beat" as they converged on the cars. She said she saw a man wielding a big stick just before the rear window of her car was shattered.
The car behind hers, carrying Tin Oo and Kyi Maung, suffered more damage, with the rear window and both rear side windows smashed. Tin Oo's cheek was scratched by glass splinters.
The first car in the motorcade, a police jeep, was not damaged, but the last car, carrying Suu Kyi's military intelligence escorts, was badly damaged. One officer jumped out waving a gun to chase the mob away.
The attack was "was carefully orchestrated by the authorities," Suu Kyi said.
"These hooligans who were inside the police cordon are obviously allowed in by the authorities," she said. She charged that the crowd was made up of members of the United Solidarity and Development Association, a government-supported organization.
The government had no immediate comment. Official comment on events - if any - is usually made in the state-controlled media.
After the attack, Suu Kyi and her colleagues drove to an intersection where some of her supporters had gathered and asked them to disperse. On the way back to Tin Oo's house, Suu Kyi said two men set upon her car and one struck it with a knife.
Burma's military government, which came to power in 1988 after violently suppressing pro-democracy street demonstrations, deals harshly with all dissent.
Suu Kyi won the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts to bring democracy to Burma, also known as Myanmar.