News / Asia

Activists Demand Details of 2007 Rangoon Crackdown

Released prisoners stand before prison chief Zaw Win at Insein Prison in Rangoon, Burma, May 17, 2011.
Released prisoners stand before prison chief Zaw Win at Insein Prison in Rangoon, Burma, May 17, 2011.

A leading Burmese exile group is demanding a full government accounting for more than 1,600 pro-democracy demonstrators -- many of them Buddhist monks --- who were arrested four years ago in a violent crackdown on public dissent.

The demand came Monday from the Thai-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP). The group says it obtained a leaked Burmese government document showing more than 2,000 protesters were arrested during the so-called Saffron Revolt of 2007 -- twice as many as previously thought.

The leaked document includes data showing 480 people were released a week after the protests were crushed, and the exile group wants to know the status of the remaining detainees.

Rights advocates have long accused the former military junta, which stepped aside earlier this year, of hiding details of the government's response to the protest. The Burmese exile group, in its statement, demands full information about criminal charges brought by the government, as well as the names of detainees and details about jail terms.

Small groups of democracy activists gathered in Rangoon Monday to mark the fourth anniversary of the Saffron protests. Truckloads of riot police were seen in the city, but there were no reports of violence. A planned march on city hall by the protesters did not take place.

Critics, including AAPP, say Burma's new nominally-civilian government is composed largely of retired junta officers who are not likely to carry out promised reforms.

The 2007 crackdown in Rangoon drew protests from a host of Western governments, along with Western promises to continue trade sanctions until the then-ruling military government eased its stranglehold on dissenters.

At the height of the crackdown, rights advocates in the region quoted witnesses as saying police forced hundreds of monks to remove their saffron robes -- widely seen as a status symbol in much of Southeast Asia. At the time, the assistance association said the detainees were taken to undisclosed locations.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and AFP.

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