UN report finds 31 killed in Myanmar crackdown

At least 31 people were killed in Myanmar during the military government's crackdown on protests this fall, and arrests and night raids on suspected demonstrators are continuing, a United Nations human rights expert who visited the country last month said

UN report finds 31 killed in Myanmar crackdown
In a report released in Geneva, Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro, a special rapporteur to the United Nations Human Rights Council, said that 500 to 1,000 people are still detained and that 1,150 political prisoners held prior to the demonstrations have not been released.

In addition, 74 people are listed as missing in the aftermath of the clashes, which occurred in August and September when monks and thousands of civilians took to the streets to protest rising fuel prices and falling standards of living.

"The figures provided by different sources may underestimate the reality, as not all family members reported missing persons, fearing reprisal and severe punishment," the report said.

The ruling junta has acknowledged the deaths of 15 people, but Pinheiro said he had uncovered evidence that at least 16 additional people had been killed.

The arsenal that the army and riot police used in attacking civilians included live ammunition, rubber bullets, tear gas and smoke grenades, bamboos and wooden sticks, rubber batons and slingshots, the report said. The resort to lethal force, the report said, was "unnecessary and disproportionate."

In a section attributed to "various reports and testimonies," the report tells of episodes where soldiers drove a truck into a row of protesters and then fired directly into the crowd, a boy was shot fatally in the back as he climbed a wall to escape onrushing troops and another boy was "shot in the head in cold blood in front of his mother."

Pinheiro assembled the information during a five-day visit to Myanmar, formerly Burma, in mid-November and meetings on two following days in Bangkok with diplomats, United Nations agency officials and civil society organizations.

In Myanmar, he had meetings with a number of government officials and law enforcement officers, senior abbots from the Buddhist clergy, nongovernmental group leaders, 20 Yangon-based ambassadors and five detainees at the Insein Prison in Yangon.

He was kept from seeing the military officers directly involved in putting down the protests and from visiting a crematorium where he was told a large number of bodies, some of them with shaved heads, were burned during three nights in late September by special teams that replaced the normal work force.

He was also not permitted to see Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the pro-democracy leader who has been held under house arrest on and off for the past 18 years, but the report said he "was reassured by the authorities that this option will remain on the agenda of his follow-up missions."

Pinheiro said he had "numerous reports" of secret, large-capacity, informal detention centers that are unacknowledged by the authorities, and where children and pregnant women are among the arrested.

He said he was told that many detainees were held in tiny isolation cells lacking ventilation and toilets and guarded by packs of dogs. Monks, he said, were deliberately offered food only in the afternoons, at an hour when they are forbidden from eating by their religion.

According to one monk who was imprisoned, many people died not solely from the injuries they received in the streets, but because of the harsh conditions of confinement and torture.

"The special rapporteur is therefore urgently calling upon the government of Myanmar to release all those detained or imprisoned merely for the peaceful exercise of their right to freedom of expression, assembly and association, including both long-term and recent prisoners of conscience, as well as in the context of the peaceful demonstrations, and to stop making further arrests," the report said.

Pinheiro said that monks in Myanmar had a tradition of political activism, particularly during the country's colonial period, but that they had never before been joined by so many students, politicians and members of civil society groups.

"This time, the crucial difference is that the involvement of the monks found its origin in the harsh conditions of living imposed on the people of Myanmar," he said. "The worsening standard of living is also adversely affecting the livelihoods of the monks, squeezed between the increased demands of the people and the meager offers made to them."

IHT

Güncelleme Tarihi: 08 Aralık 2007, 10:07
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