Red Cross asks for access to detainees in Myanmar

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GENEVA, Nov 1 (Reuters) The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) renewed its appeal today for access to people detained in Myanmar after the junta crushed a pro-democracy uprising.

Dozens of families had approached the humanitarian agency seeking to contact relatives missing since arrests in August and September, it said.

''Although the government has announced the release of hundreds of detainees over the past few weeks, the fate and whereabouts of those still detained in relation with the recent events remain unclear,'' Pierre Kraehenbuehl, ICRC director of operations, said in a statement.

The situation was a great source of anxiety for many families, he said in his second public appeal in two weeks.

The junta says nearly 3,000 people, including Buddhist monks, were arrested, although all but a few hundred have now been released.

Official media say 10 people were killed when soldiers cleared protesters from the streets of Yangon and other cities, but Western governments say the toll was probably far higher.

The Swiss-based ICRC wants to be allowed to talk to prisoners in private and make repeat visits to follow up on its confidential recommendations.

Until late 2005, the ICRC regularly visited all prisons and labour camps in Myanmar, but it says it has not been able to visit any political prisoners since then because the authorities would not allow private interviews.

In June, the ICRC accused the junta of serious violations against civilians and prisoners, including forcing them to serve as army porters walking ahead of soldiers through minefields.

REUTERS RJ BD2310

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