ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday, August 26, 2007
Vol. 42 - No 13

Myanmar detains at least 63 activists over fuel-price protests

MYANMAR, Saturday, AP -- Myanmar's junta has detained at least 63 activists who protested fuel-price hikes, a state-controlled newspaper reported today, in a campaign to snuff out increasingly daring demonstrations.The New Light of Myanmar said 13 of those arrested on Tuesday from the prominent pro-democracy 88 Generation Students group ''are being interrogated'' for allegedly undermining the government, colluding with insurgent groups and harming the community peace. If charged, the activists face up to 20 years in jail.

Members of the 88 Generation Students were at the forefront of a pro-democracy uprising in 1988 _ and were imprisoned and tortured after the military brutally suppressed the rebellion. Of the more than 50 others, the newspaper said eight people were arrested in the country's largest city Yangon as they marched in an anti-government protest Wednesday. The rest were picked up in the same city Thursday and Friday ahead of other planned rallies.

People in impoverished Myanmar are angry at the military government's decision to double fuel prices at state-owned gas stations earlier this month. Yangon was quiet Saturday, with pro-junta supporters and plainclothes police deployed throughout the city to prevent further protests. Trucks stood ready to take demonstrators away.

Myanmar people ride aboard a dilapidated truck in the new capital city of Naypyitaw. Myanmar's junta has detained at least 63 activists who protested fuel-price hikes. AP

Nyan Win, a spokesman for the opposition National League for Democracy party, said Saturday the eight demonstrators detained Wednesday had been released, but that the fate of the others was unknown.

Peaceful protests have been taking place since Sunday, mainly in Yangon. No new demonstrations were reported early Saturday. The junta quickly broke up burgeoning protests Friday, but the defiant demonstrators could claim a partial victory after the government ordered some bus companies to lower fares that were raised because of the higher fuel prices.

Myanmar's ruling junta has been widely criticized for human rights violations, including the extended detention of NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi and more than 1,200 other political prisoners.

The United States, France, Britain and several international human rights groups have called on the junta to ease its repressive activities and free political prisoners. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged Myanmar's government to exercise restraint in its response to the demonstrations.

Economic dissatisfaction sparked the country's last major upheaval in 1988 when mass demonstrations broke out seeking an end to the military rule that began in 1962. The protests were violently subdued by the army with hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people killed.

The current protests are nowhere near the scale of the 1988 events, but the junta appeared to be taking no chances in trying to clamp down on the demonstrations.

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Copyright 2007 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.Colombo. Sri Lanka.