Saturday, October 6, 2007

Global Protests for Myanmar

Oct 6, 3:41 AM EDT

YANGON, Myanmar (AP) -- A day of global protests against Myanmar's junta began in cities across Asia Saturday, after the military regime admitted detaining hundreds of Buddhist monks when troops turned their guns on pro-democracy demonstrators last week.

Hoping to send a message to the generals that the world is still watching the situation, rights group Amnesty International organized marches in more than two dozen Asian, European and North American cities.
Hundreds marched in the Australian city of Melbourne behind a banner demanding "No More Bloodshed." A smaller crowd of about 50 turned out in Bangkok, Thailand. In Malaysia's biggest city, Kuala Lumpur, 300 people attended a candlelight vigil Friday evening outside the city's tallest buildings, the Petronas Twin Towers.
More rallies were planned in New Zealand, Austria, Belgium, England, France, Ireland, Spain and Switzerland, the U.S. and Canada.
The junta's treatment of the Buddhist monks - who are revered in this deeply religious nation and led the street protests - is a key issue that could further inflame the people of Myanmar and anger soldiers loyal to the military rulers.
The government insisted most of the monks it detained had already been freed, with only 109 still in custody, according to an official statement broadcast Friday night on state TV. The report noted the junta was still hunting for four more monks it believed were ringleaders of the rallies.
Demonstrations that began in mid-August over a fuel price increase swelled into Myanmar's largest anti-government protests in 19 years, inspired largely by the thousands of monks who poured into the streets.
Television images last week showed soldiers shooting into crowds of unarmed protesters - but the government described the troops' reaction as "systematically controlling" the protesters.
The government says 10 people were killed in the Sept. 26-27 crackdown and 2,100 were detained. But dissident groups put the death toll at more than 200 and the number of detainees at nearly 6,000.
The military has ruled Myanmar since 1962. The current junta came to power after routing a 1988 pro-democracy uprising, killing at least 3,000 people. pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi's party won elections in 1990, but the generals refused to accept the results.
Suu Kyi, who has spent nearly 12 of the last 18 years under house arrest, won the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize for her democracy campaign.
Sixty Nobel laureates added their voices to the global outcry over the Myanmar crisis, saying they were "outraged" by the "ongoing violent repression" of monks and other citizens.
In a statement issued by The Elie Weisel Foundation, the Nobel laureates called on the international community, particularly China, Russia and India - who have been competing for Myanmar's bountiful oil and gas resources - to use their influence to secure democracy in Myanmar and the release of Suu Kyi.