Burma blames monks for triggering violence

Burma’s ruling junta blamed Buddhist monks Wednesday for last month’s violent crackdown on pro-democracy protests, as it admitted nearly 3 000 people had been detained over the rallies.

Monks, who are deeply revered here, led up to 100 000 people in the streets of Rangoon in the biggest challenge to the ruling generals since a student-led uprising was crushed in 1988.

Troops and police quelled the protests in late September, leaving at least 13 dead and drawing widespread international condemnation.

The official New Light of Myanmar newspaper, a government mouthpiece, said that if the monks had remained in their monasteries, ”the government would not have used force to prevent protests”.

”If … they had not staged protest marches, demanding release of political prisoners, the nation would not have seen any chaos,” it added.

State media also gave a sharply higher figure for the number of people who were detained in connection with the protests, saying 2 927 had been locked up around the country and 468 remained behind bars.

Earlier state media had indicated about 2 100 people had been arrested.

The newspaper said security forces were continuing to make arrests, despite a statement last week by the United Nations Security Council demanding the release of all political prisoners.

”Some are still [being] called in for questioning, and those who should be released will be released,” the paper added.

Amnesty International and other human rights groups have voiced fears that the detainees, who include six top dissidents arrested last weekend, could be tortured or suffer other abuses.

Burma has come under a barrage of international action aimed at pushing the regime to ease its crackdown and to open a dialogue with democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who is under house arrest in Yangon.

The United States and the European Union have tightened sanctions against the regime and pressed the United Nations to take tougher action.

Japan, one of Burma’s biggest donors, has cancelled grants of around $4,7-million over the fatal shooting of a Japanese video journalist when security forces put down last month’s huge protests.

The United Nations sent a senior envoy, Ibrahim Gambari, to Burma to meet junta chief Than Shwe and Aung San Suu Kyi.

He is currently on a regional tour aimed at putting further pressure on the regime to change course. – AFP

 

AFP

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