Burma activists launch day of demos

Oct 24, 2007 (AFP), Burma activists protested Wednesday outside China’s embassy in Bangkok to demand freedom for Aung San Suu Kyi, kicking off a day of rallies planned worldwide in support of the detained democracy leader.

About 20 people carried banners and chanted "Free Aung San Suu Kyi" for half an hour outside the embassy in the Thai capital, one in a series of demonstrations planned in 12 cities from Bangkok to Brasilia.

Twelve of the protesters wearing black-and-white Aung San Suu Kyi masks chaining themselves together to represent the 12 years the Noble peace laureate and opposition leader has spent under house arrest.

"We want China to exercise its influence over the Burmese generals. We want China to impose economic sanctions against Burma," said protester Ko Htwe, holding a banner calling for democracy in Burma.

In Sydney, 10 Burmese refugees launched a two-day hunger strike outside the Chinese consulate to demand that Beijing stop supporting the junta, said Maung Maung Than, a spokesman for the Australian Coalition for Democracy in Burma.

China has come under mounting pressure to take tougher action against the regime in Burma in the wake of a deadly crackdown on pro-democracy protests there last month.

The protests, which began in mid-August over a surprise hike in fuel prices, swelled in September when Buddhist monks began leading marches in cities around the country, drawing as many as 100,000 people into the streets.

The military responded with bullets and tear gas, killing at least 13 people and detaining 3,000 others, with more than 400 still behind bars.

Amnesty International is among a coalition of charities that organised Wednesday’s rallies, which were planned for Bangkok, Sydney, London, Paris, Berlin, Dublin, Vienna, Washington, Toronto, New York, Brasilia and Cape Town.

"Because the pictures have stopped coming out of Burma the media have turned away from this crisis. But the torture, the arrests and the killings all go on," said Kate Allen, Amnesty’s UK director.

"The international community must refocus on the crisis and the UN must do more than issue statements of concern."

Burma’s junta leader Than Shwe has made a heavily conditioned offer to meet with Aung San Suu Kyi, but so far no known talks have taken place.

The United Nations said Tuesday that top envoy Ibrahim Gambari would return to Burma in the first week of November, following a visit in the wake of the crackdown.

The generals have also agreed to the first visit to Burma by the UN’s top human rights official in four years.

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