Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Junta Continues 'Arbitrary' Dissident Arrests:Amnesty

BANGKOK (AFP)--Amnesty International has condemned ongoing "arbitrary" arrests of dissidents in military-run Myanmar two months after the junta's bloody crackdown on peaceful protests.

The arrests were made despite the junta's promise to UN special envoy to Myanmar Ibrahim Gambari, who visited the country in early November, that there would be no more arrests, the international rights group said in a statement Tuesday.

"Two months after the violent crackdown on peaceful demonstrators, arrests continue unabated as part of the Myanmmar government's systematic suppression of freedom of expression and association, contrary to its claims of a return to normalcy," said Catherine Baber, the group's Asia-Pacific Program Director.

Amnesty said at least 16 people, including Su Su Nway, a prominent labor activist, and Gambira, a Buddhist monk who became a key leader of the massive anti-junta protests in September, had been arrested since early November.

Monks were at the forefront of the protests, which began as demonstrations against a surprise hike in fuel prices in August and snowballed into the biggest anti-government demonstrations the junta has faced since 1988.

The September suppression left at least 15 dead and 3,000 imprisoned, sparking global outrage against the junta with the U.S. and the European Union tightening sanctions against the country's military rulers.

Amnesty said Gambira was reportedly charged with treason.

The 16 arrested include a senior member of detained democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi's opposition party and several ethnic leaders, it said.

"Amnesty International is deeply disappointed by the fact that these arrests are still taking place despite the government's promises to the contrary," it said, adding that four of the 16 had been released.

Up to 700 people arrested in connection with the protests remain behind bars, Amnesty said, adding that Myanmar also holds 1,150 political prisoners.

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