Burma's military killed twice the official toll, says UN

Bradley Klapper
Saturday 08 December 2007 01:00 GMT

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Burma's military killed 31 people who can be identified by name during a crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators more than double the number acknowledged by the authorities, says a UN investigator who visited the country.

But Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, a UN human rights expert, said the toll was probably much higher because there were reported cases of killings where victims' names were not given.

He gave the junta a list of 16 people killed in the crackdown in September, which are in addition to the 15 dead he said had been acknowledged by Burma's authorities.

The new list "contains only those incidents where the names of the people involved are cited", Mr Pinheiro said in a 31-page report released by the UN yesterday. "There are a number of incidents where no names were reported but where there were allegations of groups of people reportedly killed, which have also been shared."

Mr Pinheiro, who visited the country from 11-15 November, said the report has a "list of names of 653 persons detained, 74 persons disappeared and 16 killed in addition to the list of 15 dead provided by the authorities".

His report includes details of a visit to the Htain Bin crematorium, where authorities said 14 corpses were transferred from the Rangoon general hospital. The bodies were registered and cremated, but three of the dead could not be identified. Eleven of those cremated died as a result of firearm wounds.

Mr Pinheiro also said he received "credible reports" from a monk detained between 27 September and 5 October that at least 14 individuals died in custody. These included eight monks and one boy, who died on the first day, the monk told Mr Pinheiro, adding that the deaths were due to poor conditions in detention.

Mr Pinheiro said he heard that Win Shwe, a member of Aung San Suu Kyi's pro-democracy movement, died during questioning in Plate Myot Police Centre, near Mandalay, on 9 October. His body was not returned to his family, Mr Pinheiro said.

U Thilavantha, the deputy abbot of the Yuzana Kyaungthai monastery in Myitkyina, was allegedly beaten to death in detention on 26 September, Mr Pinheiro said.

He added that "credible sources" reported a large number of bodies wrapped in plastic and rice bags that were burnt in the early hours of the last days of September. The burning took place at the Ye Way crematorium in Rangoon. The authorities blocked Mr Pinheiro from visiting.

"Sources indicate that it was not usual practice for the crematorium to operate during the hours in question, that normal employees were instructed to keep away, and that the facility was operated on those nights by state security personnel or state-supported groups," Mr Pinheiro said.

At least one report indicated that some of those cremated had shaved heads, indicating they were monks, and some had signs of serious injuries.

On Monday, the national police chief Brigadier-General Khin Yi said that 2,927 people, including 596 monks, were detained in connection with the protests, but that only 80 people, including 21 monks, remained in custody.

Human Rights Watch also said the military killed far more than it has acknowledged. The group, which is based in New York, said in a report that it had documented the deaths of 20 protesters, but believes that many more Buddhist monks, students and other civilians were killed. AP

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