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ICRC Slams Burma For Rights Abuses

The International Committee of the Red Cross is denouncing Burma's military government for what the committee calls widespread and systematic human rights abuses.

In a statement released Friday, International Red Cross President Jakob Kellenberger accused Burma of forcing thousands of detainees to work as human minesweepers, carrying heavy materials and walking ahead of soldiers through fields strewn with landmines.

The statement also says Burma's armed forces have committed repeated abuses against men, women and children living in communities affected by armed conflict along the Thai-Burma border. It says forces have destroyed food supplies and made it impossible for farmers to work in their fields.

Burma has been ruled by the military since 1962, and has been criticized worldwide for its human rights abuses and refusal to enact democratic reform.

Thursday, the U.S. State Department announced that senior diplomats held a rare meeting this week with officials from military-ruled Burma to press for the release of imprisoned opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

She has been under some form of detention for most of the past 18 years. Her political party, the National League for Democracy, won elections in 1990, but the government has never accepted those results.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP.