SINGAPORE, Oct 22 (Reuters) Anger among people in Myanmar against the military government has reached a new level and that could be a precursor to more unrest, a US-based academic said today following a six-day visit to the country.
''For the first time in my trips to that country, people say to me 'we hate the military'. They've never used that term before,'' said David Steinberg, a professor of Asian Studies at Georgetown University, and one of the few Western academics to have been given access to the military junta.
Steinberg, speaking at Singapore's Institute of Southeast Asia Studies to an audience that included Singapore-based foreign diplomats, said the crisis ''is going to get worse until the government realises the seriousness of the problem''.
Myanmar's military government has said 10 people were killed when it crushed a monk-led revolt last month, but Western governments say that the toll was likely to be far higher.
Steinberg, who said he met and spoke with more than 40 government officials and private individuals on his trip, cited one source who said up to 40 people were killed on the streets and another 60 while in detention.
While the military has appeared to have relaxed its security presence in former capital Yangon, where the bulk of demonstrations took place, Steinberg said there continued to be reports of nightly raids on suspected participants.
''The people who talked to me had a great fear about the raids.
This was really something that they were really upset about,'' Steinberg said.
Myanmar's ambassador to Singapore, Win Myint, who was in the audience, declined to comment.
Steinberg, who is on a visiting fellowship to the Institute of Southeast Asia Studies until December, said he had met a senior junta official and told him of sentiments on the ground.
Steinberg also spoke out against further sanctions, which he maintained do not work on an isolationist government.
US President George Bush on Friday expanded sanctions against Myanmar's rulers, adding more military leaders to a list under existing sanctions that include a freeze on US assets.
''These are inconsequential. This is theatre, not policy,'' Steinberg said. ''Any economic development aid to Myanmar would not be useful either because the government will not be able to use it efficiently. But humanitarian aid is very badly needed, especially in the rural areas,'' he added.
REUTERS SG BD1458