Thu, Oct 18, 2007 - Page 1 News List

Myanmar blames monks for crackdown

AFP , YANGON

Myanmar's ruling junta yesterday blamed Buddhist monks for last month's violent crackdown on pro-democracy protests, as it admitted nearly 3,000 people had been detained over the rallies.

Monks, who are deeply revered here, led up to 100,000 people in the streets of Yangon in the biggest challenge to the ruling generals since a student-led uprising was crushed in 1988.

Troops and police quelled the protests in late September, leaving at least 13 dead.

The official New Light of Myanmar newspaper, a government mouthpiece, said that if the monks had remained in their monasteries, "the government would not have used force to prevent protests."

"If ... they had not staged protest marches, demanding release of political prisoners, the nation would not have seen any chaos," it said.

State media also gave a sharply higher figure for the number of people who were detained in connection with the protests, saying 2,927 had been locked up around the country and 468 remained behind bars.

Myanmar had earlier said about 2,100 people had been arrested.

The newspaper said security forces were continuing to make arrests, despite a statement last week by the UN Security Council demanding the release of all political prisoners.

"Some are still [being] called in for questioning, and those who should be released will be released," the paper said.

Amnesty International and other human rights groups have voiced fears that the detainees could be tortured or suffer other abuses.

UN envoy Ibrahim Gambari said yesterday he has been invited to make another visit to Myanmar next month.

"I have confirmed an invitation to Myanmar, to visit by the third week of November. And I intend to honor that invitation. But there is a possibility of going earlier," he told a press conference.

Gambari did not say who he would meet with during his trip, but indicated it was vital to see both the regime's leader, Senior General Than Shwe, and democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

"It is important to meet the Senior General, as it gives an authoritative response to any of the queries made," he said.

Asked whether he would see Aung San Suu Kyi, who is under house arrest, he said: "I hope so."

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