Burmese Protesters Hold Rare Gatherings

Posted September 26th, 2011 at 4:30 pm (UTC-5)
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Small groups of democracy activists gathered Monday in Rangoon to mark the fourth anniversary of the so-called Saffron protests.

Truckloads of riot police were seen in the city telling people not to assemble, but there were no reports of violence. Dozens of protestors gathered briefly for a prayer vigil in the city, but a planned march on city hall did not take place.

The small protests were some of the first such gatherings since a nominally civilian government came to power earlier this year. The government has promised reforms. However, it continues to hold more than 2,000 political prisoners.

Also Monday, a leading Burmese exile group is demanding a full government accounting for more than 1,600 pro-democracy demonstrators — many of them Buddhist monks — who were arrested four years ago in a violent crackdown during the Saffron Revolt.

The Thai-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners said it obtained a leaked Burmese government document showing more than 2,000 protesters were arrested during the crackdown — twice as many as previously thought.

The Burmese exile group demanded full information about criminal charges brought by the government, as well as the names of detainees and details about jail terms.

The 2007 crackdown in Rangoon drew protests from a host of Western governments, along with Western promises to continue trade sanctions until the military government of the time eased its stranglehold on dissent.

At the height of the crackdown, rights advocates in the region quoted witnesses as saying police forced hundreds of monks to remove their saffron robes — widely seen as a status symbol in much of Southeast Asia. The assistance association said the detainees were taken to undisclosed locations.