Seek accountability from Myanmar, urges rights body

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New York, Sep 26 (UNI) The international community should demand accountability from the Myanmar government for the brutal crackdown in September 2007 on monks, activists, and other civilians, Human Rights Watch has said.

Repression in Myanmar has increased and the military government has failed to deliver on promises it made a year ago, despite international efforts at mediation, it noted.

The crackdown that began on September 26, 2007, was a brutal response to growing protests initially triggered in part by the doubling of fuel prices in mid-August 2007.

In the following weeks, Buddhist monks in Yangon, Mandalay and other towns across the country staged peaceful marches to protest government policies and poor living standards. Laypersons gradually joined the marches, swelling to tens of thousands of people calling for political, economic and social reforms, according to news reports.

''Last September, the Burmese people courageously challenged their military rulers, and they were answered with violence and contempt,'' Elaine Pearson, Deputy Asia Director at Human Rights Watch, said yesterday.

''The repression continues. While a handful of political activists have been released, more are being arrested and thousands remain in prison.'' On September 23, 2008, the ruling State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) announced the release of 9,002 prisoners from Myanmar jails, among them seven political activists, including 78-year-old U Win Tin, a prominent activist and journalist imprisoned since 1989.

But in August and September 2008 alone, the Myanmar authorities arrested an estimated 39 political activists and sentenced 21 to prison terms.

On September 16, Burmese authorities arrested Nilar Thein, a prominent activist in hiding since the 2007 protests. Zargana, a famous activist and comedian, has remained in prison since July 2008 for publicly criticising the SPDC's slow response to aid following Cyclone Nargis.

The SPDC currently holds more than 2,100 political prisoners, including more than 800 arrested following the 2007 protests.

In the crackdown a year ago, Myanmar security forces beat, arrested, detained and shot monks and other protesters in the streets of Yangon.

Police and plainclothes paramilitary members arrested thousands of peaceful participants in the protests in nighttime raids on monasteries and their homes.

In the following days, hundreds more were beaten, arrested and detained at makeshift detention facilities, police stations and jails.

The true number of people killed may never be known, since there has been no investigation by Myanmar authorities or UN investigators, tne New York-based rights body noted.

The UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar, Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, made a report after his November 2007 visit, but acknowledged it was not a full investigation and recommended that the UN Human Rights Council call for investigations into the circumstances of the crackdown.

''It's a failure of the Burmese government and the international community that the perpetrators of killing, arbitrary arrests and torture during the September 2007 crackdown have not been brought to justice,'' Pearson said in a statement.

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