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Burma Embassy Protesters Mark 2nd Anniversary of Military Crackdown

By Daniel Schearf
26 September 2009

Protesters have demonstrated in front of the Burmese Embassy in Bangkok to mark the second anniversary of the military crackdown on Buddhist monk-led calls for democracy.

About 30 protesters, including Buddhist monks, chant slogans outside the gates of the Burmese Embassy in Bangkok.

The demonstrators wear red bandanas and hold posters calling for democracy and the release of political prisoners.

Several wear T-shirts with photos of detained Burmese democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

The monks also pray for peace in Burma.

They are marking two years since Burma's military government violently put down a Buddhist monk-led democracy movement, killing at least 31 people.

A few demonstrators are dressed as soldiers and pretend to beat the protesters with rolled up newspapers.

Ashin Teza is with the All Burma Monks Alliance, one of the groups organizing the protest. He says the military crackdown was also an attack on religious freedom.

"The military dictatorship, military regime, slandered veneration and the people's religion rights," said Ashin Teza.

Burma's military government arrested hundreds of people who took part in the 2007 calls for democracy including Buddhist monks.

The movement became known as the "Saffron Revolution" named after the robes worn by the monks.

Human Rights Watch said in a report this week that about 240 Buddhist monks are still imprisoned in Burma while thousands have been forcibly disrobed or are under constant government surveillance.

Burma's military government is suffering economic and diplomatic sanctions from the United States for locking up dissidents and refusing to allow for democracy.

But, this week the U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said while keeping sanctions in place Washington would begin engaging with Burma's rulers.

Ashin Teza said the All Burma Monks Alliance did not support the dialogue.

"We don't dare to believe U.N. and United States because now they call to military government to come to their country," he said. "That is not suitable for our country, also our people."

However, the Burmese government in exile and detained democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi say they support Washington's move to engage the military government.

Aung San Suu Kyi has also written a letter to Burma's top military commander General Than Shwe saying she was prepared to work with him towards ending the economic sanctions.

But, they say the United States must also meet with opposition parties and stay firm on demands that political prisoners be released and democracy returned to Burma.

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