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Burmese Government Continues Campaign of Fear and Repression


The military government in Burma continues its campaign of fear and repression against its citizenry as the world waits for a report from U.N. envoy Ibrahim Gambari. He met with Burma's military leaders and detained democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, following violent suppression of pro-democracy protests in Burma last week. VOA's Nancy-Amelia Collins in Jakarta has more.

Reports of soldiers in military trucks looking for pro-democracy protesters, going into homes and arresting people filtered out of Burma's largest city Rangoon, as the military government continued to quash dissent against its harsh 45-year rule.

Meanwhile, U.N. special envoy to Burma briefed Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong about his four-day visit to Burma where he met twice with detained democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and once with Burma's military ruler General Than Shwe.

The Singapore prime minister said it was encouraged by the access and cooperation given to Gambari by the Burmese government. He had been sent by the United Nations to express the world's outrage over the violent crackdown and to negotiate a peaceful solution to the crisis.

Adding to the international chorus of condemnation was Australian Ambassador to the United Nations Robert Hill.

"We call for the immediate release of those arrested for exercising their fundamental human rights to peaceful protest and for humane treatment of all those detained," said Hill. "Australia is also introducing targeted financial measures against members of the Burmese regime and its supporters to increase pressure on them to engage in genuine political reform and national reconciliation."

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations or ASEAN, currently chaired by Singapore, has been seeking ways to respond to the repression in Burma. In an unusually sharp rebuke, it expressed "revulsion" over member Burma's actions last week.

A Singapore government statement said Prime Minister Lee told Gambari that ASEAN is fully behind the U.N. mission.

Gambari, who has refused to comment publicly on his mission, was in Singapore on his way to New York where he will brief the U.N. secretary general later this week.

A steep hike in fuel prices prompted protests against military rule in August that turned into massive demonstrations last month led by Burma's revered clergy.

The government responded by shooting, beating, killing and arresting monks, students, and civilians.

Rights groups fear the official figure of 10 dead during the crackdown is much higher, and put the number of arrests in the thousands.

Independent verification is difficult because foreign journalists are not allowed to enter the country.

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