Monks flee crackdown in Burma
Three Buddhist monks tell their stories. UN envoy reports Friday on his meeting with military leaders.
Mae Sot, Thailand
A violent crackdown in military-run Burma (Myanmar) is continuing, one week after security forces broke up peaceful monk-led protests on the streets of Rangoon, sending shock waves around the world. Predawn raids on houses and temples in the former capital, which is under nighttime curfew, have netted truckloads of people suspected of joining the biggest antigovernment outpouring since 1988.Skip to next paragraph
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Young monks who led the marches that brought huge crowds of citizens into the streets are now fleeing the repression, and a few have now reached the Thai border town of Mae Sot. Three Buddhist monks interviewed Thursday offer a rare glimpse of the events leading up to the crackdown.
Back in Rangoon, several monasteries now appear to be abandoned, say diplomats there. At least 1,000 forcibly disrobed monks are reportedly being detained in Army and police camps and in converted school buildings. "Only the old monks are left, all the young monks have left Yangon [Rangoon]," says one of the monks who escaped.
The repression comes as UN special envoy to Burma Ibrahim Gambari prepares to brief the UN security council on Friday after four days of meetings in the isolated country. During his visit, Mr. Gambari met detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and junta leader Gen. Than Shwe. Diplomats are waiting to hear what, if any, assurances were offered by Burma on long-stalled political reforms, though analysts warn that military leaders have given no sign of compromise.
UN officials say Gambari also pressed the leadership on the fate of the unknown number of Burmese detained by security forces. A local UN worker and her family were taken overnight from their home earlier this week, though it's unclear if the worker, who hasn't been named, was targeted or caught in a neighborhood sweep. Associate Press reported Thursday the worker and family were released.
"We continue to receive information of nighttime raids on homes and monasteries, reports of missing persons, and poor conditions in detention centers," says a UN official in Rangoon. "We don't go out and verify these … but the trends we detect are alarming."
Human rights monitors say the clampdown appears to be both targeted and indiscriminate, with Army patrols searching for named activists in hiding, and sweeping overnight raids on neighborhoods considered antiregime. Soldiers have issued warnings over loudspeakers that they will detain those demonstrators caught on camera during the protests. Exiled news agencies have reported that state media and pro-government militia have supplied photos to security forces.
The whereabouts of the young monks, whose disciplined ranks had galvanized a simmering antigovernment movement in Rangoon sparked by fuel price hikes in August, is hard to determine, according to diplomats and human rights groups. Some are likely to be in custody and may have been injured during the raids. Others were ordered or voluntarily opted to return to their villages, including novices who join the monkhood during the rainy season on a temporary basis.
Those who traveled here to Thailand by land to escape the military dragnet have turned to exiled pro-democracy groups for shelter and assistance.
Escape from Burma