A temple compound that closed for a week after a deadly bombing reopened Wednesday, and thousands of Burmese endured delays caused by tight security to see a sacred Buddhist relic inside.
In a defiant New Year's Eve news conference, meanwhile, pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi predicted progress toward democracy in 1997 and urged foreign countries to step up pressure on Burma's military government."In politics, it's very difficult to say when something is going to happen," she said. "Who would have thought that in 1989, the political map of Eastern Europe would change so quickly?"
The Kaba Aye pagoda compound had been closed since Dec. 25, when a pair of explosions killed five people and injured 17. Many senior officials had visited the relic earlier in the day, but none was hurt.
At the site Wednesday, soldiers made visitors leave their belongings 15 feet from the entrance to the compound. The line to get into the compound stretched for 200 yards.
People wanted to pay respects to a 2,500-year-old tooth believed to have belonged to the Buddha. The tooth has been on loan since Dec. 6 from China, the government's biggest ally and arms supplier.
The government has blamed ethnic Karen and student rebel groups based along the Thai border for the bombing. Those groups, in turn, have accused the government of staging the blast to create a pretext for a crackdown.
The explosion and a series of student protests earlier in December marked the most important unrest since a pro-democracy uprising in 1988 and have deepened enmity between the hard-line regime and groups seeking multiparty democracy.
Lt. Gen. Khin Nyunt, the powerful chief of military intelligence, on Tuesday accused Suu Kyi's party and Communists of fomenting the unrest.