RTE News (Ireland):
Demonstrators have been on the streets of Burma since the middle of August. The intensity of the pro-democracy protests in recent days has led to a huge deployment of troops on the streets and many deaths.
RTÉ's Deputy Foreign Editor Anthony Murnane assesses the situation in Burma.
It was a decision by Burma's military leaders to increase fuel prices in August that sparked dissent among the population. A largely rural country with important offshore oil and gas deposits, Burma's 50m strong population sees little of the wealth. Petrol and diesel prices doubled overnight. Public transport costs shot up as the gas used by buses increased five-fold. Food prices were affected.
Burma's major religion is Buddhism and thousands of pagodas dotted around the country are a major tourist attraction. It's the involvement of the country's revered Buddhist monks that gave added weight to the demonstrations. They joined in large numbers after three of them were hurt when troops used force to break up a peaceful rally on 5 September.
In Burma nothing is simple - even its name causes problems. It is recognised by the UN as Myanmar; but the EU and other countries refer to Burma/Myanmar.
This is because its name was changed by the military leaders after they violently quashed an uprising in 1988, killing over 3,000 people. The junta has been accused of gross human rights abuses.
The Burmese people were allowed to vote in multi-party elections in 1991, for the first time in 30 years. It led to a landslide victory for the National League for Democracy.
Instead of handing over power, the military - to international condemnation - scrapped the election results. The party's leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, was placed under house arrest. She has since won many awards, including the Nobel Peace Prize, and in 1999 she was given the Freedom of Dublin.
She is the nemesis of Burma's head of state Than Shwe, a much decorated army general who is said to be introverted and superstitious. A man who often makes decisions based on the advice of astrologers.
As more and more pro-democracy demonstrators joined the Buddhist monks on the streets, the army moved in to get them off the streets.
They were confined to their monasteries as this week's violent crackdown was launched in earnest. It all brings to mind the large scale protests that marked the uprising in 1988, and that is why the army was called in this week.
It's hard to know where this will all go. The protests have a momentum now. But the army is moving in swiftly to stifle the dissent.
The international community has become more vocal in urging restraint by the army. Indeed, the killing of a Japanese photographer may do more than any of the street protests to help the pro-democracy demonstrators.
Burma's military leaders are a tight knit group, and it's impossible to know whether the popular anger we've witnessed on the streets of Burma will be powerful enough to split the armed forces and lead them to break ranks.