Hundreds of thousands of anti-government protesters marched Friday through the central city of Moulmein, and demonstrators took over scores of cities and towns across the country, a Western diplomat said.

Students and Buddhist monks led the protesters in Moulmein, 50 miles east of the capital, Rangoon, the diplomat said. He said some protesters occupied local government buildings."We estimate that up to 40 townships are under the control of the people," he said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Thousands of people also rallied peacefully in Rangoon, but far fewer were in the streets than the estimated 100,000 who rallied the day before. The demonstrations Friday were concentrated near two major rallying points, Rangoon General Hospital and the U.S. Embassy.