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US officials, politicians urge UN action as Myanmar continues protest clampdown

US officials, politicians urge UN action as Myanmar continues protest clampdown

American politicians issued urgent calls for Myanmar's military government to stop its repression as the junta Thursday hunted down pro-democracy activists it blames for spearheading protests against rising fuel prices.
Two senior Senators and the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee called for the State Department to persuade the U.N. Security Council to hold an emergency meeting on human rights violations in Myanmar.
Senators Mitch McConnell and Dianne Feinstein wrote that the situation in Myanmar "merits a strong and meaningful response by our government," and asked Rice to urge U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to report to the council about it.
The State Department said it would work at the U.N. and other forums to pressure the junta to release opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other political prisoners, and move to restore democracy.
State Department spokesman Tom Casey said Washington would "try and encourage others to speak out on this and those who may have influence with the Burmese regime to get them to do the right thing here and to do what has been so long overdue." Burma is another name for Myanmar.
In Yangon, Myanmar's largest city, security was especially tight near City Hall and the busy market near Hledan Junction, where protests against fuel price hikes and rising consumer prices have been attempted over the last week and a half.
Truckloads of young, tough-looking government-hired enforcers directed by plainclothes security officials were parked at such key points, the occupants ready to pounce on anyone suspected of trying to spark unrest.
It has been a government tactic in the past to use members of the Swan-ah-shin and Union Solidarity and Development Association_ ostensibly a social welfare organization, but closely linked to the junta _ to assault and intimidate the junta's opponents.
The USDA was linked to attacks against Suu Kyi and her party supporters in Yangon in 1997, and in northern Myanmar on May 30, 2003. The latter clash led to her detention, which the military said was for her own protection.
Several diplomats in Yangon have expressed concerns over the heavy-handed ways the government uses to snuff out the protests.
"I believe the junta does not use uniformed personnel because they don't want to be blamed for their action. Now that they are using civilians, they can claim, as they have done in newspapers, that it was the agitated public that stop the protesters," said a diplomat who did not want to be named because of diplomatic protocol.
The government has also ordered local officials and hotels to be on the lookout for key pro-democracy activists, sending out their names, photos and biographical information, said a local official who asked not to be named for fear of retaliation.
"We have been instructed to inform higher authorities immediately if we sight any of these people in our area," he said, adding that the list of dissidents includes at least one member of the 88 Generation Students group, the most active in carrying out non-violent anti-government protests. Most of its top members were arrested on Aug. 21, two days after staging the first of the current round of protests.
Those participating in almost daily protest attempts have dwindled from a few hundred people to a few dozen, as the junta employs the menacing gangs of civilians to manhandle protesters. Scores of people have been detained, though several key protest leaders remain at large.
In Washington, Congressman Tom Lantos on Wednesday decried the junta's "widespread crackdown" on pro-democracy and human rights activists.
In a letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, he urged Rice to call for a U.N. Security Council briefing on Myanmar's situation.
In 1988, public protests over rising rice prices were a prelude to a burst of major demonstrations. The current protests are nowhere near their scale.
Those protests, which sought an end to military rule that began in 1962, were violently subdued by the army. The junta held general elections in 1990, but refused to honor the results when Suu Kyi's party won.


Updated : 2020-12-02 15:11 GMT+08:00