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Junta orchestrates mass rally

Myanmar’s junta hold a massive government-orchestrated rally, as security forces kept cracking down on pro-democracy protesters.

world Updated: Oct 14, 2007 02:50 IST

Myanmar’s junta held a massive government-orchestrated rally on Saturday in Yangon, as security forces kept cracking down on pro-democracy protesters by rounding up some of the country's most prominent political activists. Rights group Amnesty International said four activists, who led pro-democracy marches several weeks ago and then went into hiding, were arrested early Saturday in Yangon, Myanmar's biggest city. Amnesty said it did not have details of the arrests, which could not be independently confirmed.

The rights group said it feared for their safety. "Amnesty International believes that these high-profile opposition figures are at grave risk of torture and mistreatment," said Daniel Alderman, an Amnesty spokesman.

"The eyes of the world are on Myanmar, and the authorities will be judged by how all those who have been detained in recent weeks are treated." The activists arrested were Htay Kywe, Aung Htoo and Thin Thin Aye, also known as Mie Mie — all members of the 88 Generation Students' Group, which comprises student leaders who were active in a 1988 pro-democracy uprising. A fourth activist, Ko Ko, was also arrested.

The current junta came to power after crushing the 1988 protests, killing as many as 3,000 people. Simmering discontent with the regime erupted into mass protests in August after the government hiked fuel prices in Myanmar, one of Asia's poorest countries. Troops crushed the protests by shooting at demonstrators on Sept. 26-27.

The regime says 10 people were killed in the clashes and 2,100 were detained, but diplomats and dissidents say the toll is much higher and as many as 6,000 people were taken into custody. Allegations have emerged of beatings of protesters and deaths under harsh interrogation.

The crackdown has ignited international outrage, triggering a condemnation Thursday by the UN Security Council. To drum up support at home, the junta held a pro-government rally Saturday in Yangon, where thousands shouted slogans against Western powers and the foreign media, whom the military regime accuses of fomenting the recent protests.

"Down with BBC! Down with VOA! Down with Radio Free America," the crowds chanted at the rally.