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Amnesty International Accuses Burma of Continued Atrocities


The human rights group Amnesty International has released what it says are eyewitness accounts of police brutality, arbitrary arrests and appalling detention conditions in Burma. The group says it has proof that Burma's military government is breaking promises it made to the international community to show restraint in the wake of mass anti-government demonstrations. VOA's Mandy Clark reports from London.

Here is where Burmese refugees say they hope to find freedom. This is a border crossing from Burma to Thailand. The few who made it describe what they left behind.

Htet Zaw arrived a few days ago from Rangoon. The freelance journalist says it was too dangerous to stay. He says, "The current situation is that every family lives in fear. They have continued to arrest people. At least one to two people from each family were involved in the uprising. The homes of those suspected of sheltering these people get raided at night by police and soldiers."

Two prominent pro-democracy activists in Burma were arrested last weekend. In London, Amnesty International's Catherine Baber says she is concerned. "They had been very vocal in their criticism of the government and the government had been issuing death threats against them through the official newspaper so we are very gravely concerned for their safety."

Initial demonstrations broke out in Burma's main city, Rangoon, in August over the rise in fuel prices. Spurred on by pro-democracy activists and Buddhist monks, they soon spread and turned into major anti-government protests. Then came the government crackdown.

One Burmese monk we spoke with does not want to reveal his identity. He says he saw police beat demonstrators, including children and monks, during last month's protests. He says, "Some of the injured were so bloody that you couldn't tell where blood was coming from. I saw civilians trying to help an injured monk. Most of their injuries were head injuries. The riot police were aiming for the head."

Hlaing Moe Than says he spent eight years in detention for his part in earlier demonstrations calling for the release from house arrest of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi. He wants the international community to take action. "If the international community doesn't believe that we deserve a peaceful and responsible democracy, we will continue to make sacrifices for democracy until the end, but the international community will see tragic events unfolding in Burma in the future."

International pressure has been mounting on the Burmese government to show restraint and open up politically.

U.N. special envoy Ibrahim Gambari went to Burma, but to little effect. He is now visiting Burma's neighbors and key trading allies for talks before a planned return there mid-November.

Human rights organizations say they remain worried about the fate of the thousands of people arrested during last month's government crackdown.