Burma still in fear and cut off

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The Independent Online

A relentless crackdown on Myanmar's pro-democracy activists showed no sign of easing with the junta announcing yesterday that 78 more people have been detained in spite of global outrage and new sanctions.

The latest arrests, reported by the state-run New Light of Myanmar newspaper, brought to nearly 1,000 the number of people the military regime acknowledges holding in detention centers. In addition, it says 135 Buddhist monks remain in custody.

But dissident groups and foreign governments say more than 6,000 people have been locked up after last month's protests, the biggest in nearly two decades against 45 years of brutal military rule.

Soldiers opened fire on demonstrators, who were led by monks, on 26 and 27 September, bringing to an abrupt end all resistance. The government says 10 people, including a Japanese photographer, were killed in the violence.

However, other independent sources including foreign governments say the toll is likely to run into the hundreds.

The New Light of Myanmar, a mouthpiece of the junta, quoted investigators as saying 78 more people "who were involved in the protest" were being questioned. It did not say when they were detained.

These were in addition to 2,093 people who were detained earlier, of which 1,215 were released by Saturday, the paper said. Authorities also took in 533 monks for questioning "to differentiate between real monks and bogus monks."

"Out of those taken, 398 monks have been sent back to their respective monasteries," it said.

The junta's propaganda machine, meanwhile, continued to claim massive rallies across the country, allegedly in support of the government. The paper said demonstrators denounced the recent protests "instigated" by some monks and members of democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi's party.