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Junta slams global pro-democracy efforts

world Updated: Oct 15, 2007 02:33 IST

The military junta detained six more key pro democracy activists over the weekend, while slamming on Sunday the global support the protestors have received.

The criticism, voiced in a newspaper widely seen as a junta mouthpiece was timed for the very day UN envoy Ibrahim Gambari, after an unsuccessful visit to Myanmar, embarked on a tour of its neighbouring countries to increase pressure on the junta to halt its crackdown on the protestors. Gambari is scheduled to meet Thailand’s leaders on Monday, after which he will travel to Malaysia, Indonesia, India, China and Japan before returning to Myanmar.

Six activists were rounded up by Myanmar authorities in a raid on a safehouse over the weekend, Amnesty International said.

Myanmar’s military leaders have repeatedly rebuffed calls for reforms, saying the only way to bring change to the country was to follow the junta’s seven-step "road map" to democracy. The stance was reiterated today in The New Light of Myanmar newspaper. “There will emerge a peaceful, modern and developed democratic nation, according to the state’s seven-step road map,” the papers editorial said. It added citizens “who are shouting at full-blast” for UN intervention were traitors “trying to hand over their motherland to alien countries”. “Such national traitors will soon meet their tragic ends,” it warned.

Amnesty International had on Saturday reported that four political dissidents, including two prominent leaders of recent anti-junta rallies, were arrested in Yangon. New information confirmed that six people were arrested in a raid by security forces on a house in Myanmar's commercial hub.

“There is no information on where they are being detained,” the human rights watchdog said in a statement. “Amnesty International is seriously concerned for the safety of all six people, who are at grave risk of torture and ill-treatment.”

The statement quoted eyewitnesses, who said about 70 members of the security forces had raided a residence where the activists were hiding.

Htay Kywe and Mi Mi, who led some of the first protests against the military regime in mid-August, were held along with Aung Thu, a 43-year-old activist.

The other three have not yet been identified, the spokesperson said, but two were believed to be members of prominent activist group the 88 Generation Students, while the other person is thought to be the home owner.

Htay Kywe and Mi Mi helped lead August’s protests, which were sparked by an overnight jump in fuel prices in Myanmar that left many unable to afford even to travel to work.

Simultaneously, in a bid to show the situation had returned to normal, the junta relaxed curfew in Yangon and apparently lifted a block on Internet access, residents said on Sunday.

Loudspeakers mounted on trucks drove through the city late on Saturday, informing people that the curfew would now run for four hours from 11:00 pm to 3:00 am local time, down from the previous six hours a night from 10:00 pm till 4:00 am.

“We got 24-hour Internet back yesterday evening,” said an Internet cafe owner in Yangon.

The easing of the curfew and the Net ban, along with a reduced security presence on Yangon’s streets, seemed to imply the junta believes it has finally quashed the largest protests against its rule in nearly 20 years.

The curfew was announced on September 25, just before the government launched its bloody crackdown on the protests.

Restrictions are also in place in Myanmar’s second city Mandalay.

The protests began in reaction to a surprise mid-August rise in fuel prices but escalated into more general anti-junta rallies.