Friday, September 28, 2007

More Deaths Than Reported

Why would anyone take anything the Junta says at face value? Considering the brutality of the Regime and that killing has been their main means of persuasion since they took power their response to the protests comes with little suprise to those paying who've been attention to the region.

Myanmar Deaths More Than Junta Revealed, Envoy Says (Update3)

Sept. 28 (Bloomberg) -- The death toll from anti-government protests in Myanmar is ``significantly'' higher than the military junta revealed, an Australian envoy said, as the U.S. and Southeast Asian nations demanded an end to the violence.

``Several multiples of the 10 acknowledged by the authorities'' have been killed, Ambassador Bob Davis said in an interview with Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio today from the former capital, Yangon. ``We're appalled at the violence by the military and thugs against peaceful demonstrators.''

President George W. Bush yesterday called on the international community to stand up for the pro-democracy demonstrators. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations expressed ``revulsion'' at the violent crackdown and demanded Myanmar, which is a member of the bloc, resolve the crisis peacefully.

Security forces fired warning shots over a crowd of some 10,000 protesters after launching baton charges in the center of Yangon today in an attempt to make demonstrators disperse, Agence France-Presse reported. Four monks were arrested in a raid by security forces on a monastery outside the city, AFP said.

International condemnation of the regime in Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, has grown since soldiers were deployed on the streets of Yangon, two days ago to end the biggest anti- government protests in almost 20 years. The Treasury Department in Washington froze financial assets in the U.S. of 14 junta leaders and the European Union is considering tightening sanctions on the regime.

Talks With Junta

UN special envoy Ibrahim Gambari met with Foreign Ministry officials in Singapore, which currently chairs Asean, to discuss the crisis on his way to Myanmar, where he will hold talks with junta leaders, AFP reported today.

Asean, which admitted Myanmar as a member in 1997 against the wishes of the U.S. and Europe, has been criticized by Western nations for not doing enough to induce democratic change there.

The bloc's ``constructive engagement'' to encourage democracy in Myanmar has failed, Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said today, the state-owned Bernama news agency reported. Progress on democratic change has been slow and, at times, stagnant, he added. Malaysia is an Asean member.

Soldiers patrolled Yangon today and many roads were sealed with barbed wire, AFP said. Streets were deserted and most stores and businesses closed, it added.

Access to the Internet was partially shut down, AFP said, adding that a state telecom official blamed the problem on a damaged underwater cable.

Bodies Removed

The Australian Embassy couldn't independently confirm how many people were shot dead by soldiers. It has witness reports of significantly more bodies than officially acknowledged ``being removed from the scene of the demonstrations,'' Davis said in the interview with ABC radio.

At least 30 people were killed by security forces two days ago, Lim Kit Siang, opposition leader in Malaysia's Parliament, said in an e-mailed statement today, citing an unidentified official in Myanmar's National League for Democracy.

The NLD won parliamentary elections in 1990, a result rejected by the junta, and its leader, Aung San Suu Kyi is among more than 1,000 political prisoners in the country.

The junta must release Suu Kyi and act with ``the utmost restraint,'' Philippine President Gloria Arroyo, whose country is also an Asean member, said in a statement issued in Manila today.

Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura said the government is investigating the death of Japanese journalist Kenji Nagai, 50, who was shot dead by soldiers in Yangon yesterday. The government may impose sanctions on Myanmar, he added.

Show of Defiance

Buddhist monks have led more than a week of protests against the regime in the biggest show of defiance since a pro-democracy uprising by students in 1988.

That revolt was crushed when the army killed 1,000 protesters on Aug. 8, 1988, and an estimated 3,000 others in the weeks afterward, according to the U.S. State Department.

Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said it summoned Myanmar's top diplomat in Canberra, Aung Soe Win, to inform him the government is imposing ``targeted financial sanctions' on the military regime.

Analysts questioned whether sanctions would curb the junta's actions and said the crackdown may get worse.

``A military government in any country will do anything to stay in power and Myanmar is no exception,'' Hiro Katsumata, Southeast Asian affairs researcher at Singapore's Institute of Defense and Strategic Studies, said by telephone yesterday. ``Unless there is substantial international pressure on Myanmar, the military government will not do anything.''

U.S. and EU sanctions will only be effective if China, India and Asean neighbors follow suit, Katsumata added.