Sun, Oct 07, 2007 - Page 1 News List

Protesters across Asia rally against junta


Activists took to the streets in cities across Asia esterday, kicking off a day of global protest against a bloody crackdown on dissent in Myanmar.

Hundreds rallied outside Sydney's iconic Opera House in Australia, while in Melbourne 1,000 people marched, some carrying red banners that read "no more bloodshed."

About 500 people marched through Wellington's main thoroughfare in New Zealand, with smaller protests held in other cities across the country in an expression of solidarity with Myanmar's pro-democracy protesters.

Dozens also gathered in front of the Myanmar embassy in Bangkok, shouting "Free Burma" and brandishing pictures of the democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi, while campaigners in India prepared to hold a candle-lit vigil outside a war memorial in the heart of New Delhi.

In London, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown sent a message of support to the people of Myanmar, as human-rights group Amnesty International said protests would be held in cities across the globe.

"Today is above all about repeating a firm message: The world has not forgotten -- and will not forget -- the people of Burma," he said.

Amnesty's London-based secretary general Irene Khan said the protests were aimed at focusing world attention on the actions of the military junta.

"Support is now greatly needed to keep visible pressure on the Myanmar authorities to stop the violence towards demonstrators, ensure the safety of detainees and release prisoners of conscience," Khan said in a statement on Amnesty's international Web site.

She said the rallies sent the message to the military junta that "the world is still watching."

Amnesty New Zealand campaign director Gary Reese said demonstrators marched in several cities across the country, many wearing red to honor the Buddhist monks who spearheaded the Myanmar protests.

He said New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark, currently in Europe, had sent a message of support.

"There was a really strong feeling that people wanted action on Burma, that it's become the world's forgotten human rights crisis over the last 40 years or so and we can't let that continue," he said.

"The people of Burma have done all they can, they've been arrested, they've been killed -- now it's time for the international community to do something," he said.

Myanmar has said 13 people were killed in the crackdown on the anti-regime protests, the largest it has seen in almost 20 years.

But Australian authorities estimate the Myanmar military killed at least 30 people taking part in the mass pro-democracy rallies and arrested more than 1,400 participants, including Buddhist monks.

Rallies were also held in Brisbane and Perth.

"This is about getting a message to the people in Burma," Brisbane protest organizer Natasha Lutes said. "They've been struggling to get the message out about the atrocities that are happening in Burma, putting their lives on the line. We want them to know the world has been listening and ordinary people everywhere support them."

In Singapore, a vigil outside the Myanmar embassy involving an opposition political party and members of the Myanmar community entered its seventh day yesterday.

Amnesty International Korea said some 200 protesters, including immigrant workers from Myanmar, would stage a protest outside the country's embassy in central Seoul today to press for the release of prisoners of conscience.

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