Every night the curfew falls like a cloak across Mandalay, Burma’s second city and the heartland of its monkhood, hiding a reign of terror unseen by the outside world.
The trishaws vanish from the streets. The lamps of temples and mosques dim. People lurk in pools of light on their doorsteps, some brazenly cradling radios to their ears, but soon retreat indoors. Then come the sounds of dread.
Sitting on the roof of a deserted $15-a-night hotel, you can hear the growl of engines carried by an easterly breeze that sighs out of the Shan hills. Doors slam in the distance. There are shouts as motors rev up and recede. A hush descends.
Thousands of people are incarcerated in four detention centres around Mandalay controlled by the 33rd division of the Burmese army. Its commanders have broken the political power of the 200 monasteries here and shattered the Buddhist clergy as an organised force. [complete article]