Protesters mark Burmese repression in blood

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Bangkok - Exiled Burmese dissidents shed their own blood and staged hunger strikes to mark the eighth anniversary of one of the bloodiest days in a failed pro-democracy uprising in Rangoon.

Several members of a group cut themselves during a protest in front of the Burmese embassy in Bangkok and smeared their blood on the embassy wall.

Standing next to a banner saying "The blood stains of 8-8-88 can never be sponged out", the exiles, wearing red headbands, commemorated the events of 8 August 1988, when hundreds of people were killed by government troops as they demonstrated for democracy.

"The 8-8-88 pro-democracy uprising earned much support from the international community and was recorded in history," one of the protesters said.

"Nevertheless, the military regime has still remained in power and continued to rule the country, oppressing the people."

Dissidents called for stronger international pressure on Burma, which has drawn Western condemnation for a recent crackdown on the National League for Democracy party.

In Rangoon, witnesses saidthere was no abnormal activity on Mahabandoola Street in front of town hall, where most of the people were killed as troops opened fire on demonstrators eight years ago.

But Rangoon residents were unnerved by explosion-like sounds in the capital. Speculation swept the city that bombs had been set off to mark the anniversary of the uprising.

The anniversary came as Amnesty International released another report condemning Burma's military government for human rights abuses and said it was seriously concerned about the practice of forced labour in the country.

Amnesty said Burmese military authorities were responsible for widespread human rights violations in ethnic minority areas including rape, torture and summary executions.