UN says at least 31 killed in protests

Dec 8, 2007 (DVB), United Nations special rapporteur Paulo Sergio Pinheiro has said that at least 31 people died and up to 4,000 were detained in the Burmese regime's crackdown on demonstrations in September and October.

Following his visit to Burma last month, Pinheiro has prepared a report on the protests and government crackdown, which will be presented to the UN Human Rights Council on Tuesday.

According to a UN press release, Pinheiro described the violent suppression of protests by government forces as "unnecessary and disproportionate", and said that he had details of 16 more deaths than the 15 people officially reported to have died according to government accounts.

"Several reports of killings indicate that the figure provided by the authorities may greatly underestimate the reality," said Pinheiro.

The special rapporteur said that "credible eye-witness reports" had said that more than 30 people had been killed.

Pinheiro put the number of people arrested in connection with the protests at between 3,000 and 4,000, with between 500 and 1,000 still being held, and expressed concern about "secret" detention facilities used by the government.

At least 74 cases of enforced disappearance were also noted in Pinheiro's report, and he said that allegations that a large number of bodies had been secretly burned at crematoria were "very disturbing".

Pinheiro has presented his report to the Burmese government, including the names of those missing, killed and detained, and recommended the immediate release of all those still being held in connection with the protests.

He has also urged the regime to release information on the whereabouts of those detained or missing, return the remains of those killed to their families and allow Red Cross representatives to visit detainees.

International rights group Human Rights Watch has also said it believes the government is concealing the extent of the crackdown on protestors, according to a press release yesterday.

"The crackdown in Burma is far from over," said Brad Adams, Asia director for the organisation.

"Harsh repression continues, and the government is still lying about the extent of the deaths and detentions."

HRW, who released an in-depth report on the crackdown yesterday, has documented 20 deaths in Rangoon related to the protests, but the organisation believes that the true figure is much higher.

The rights group also noted the role of the Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA), the Swan Arr Shin militia, soldiers and riot police in the violent suppression of protests.

"The generals unleashed their civilian thugs, soldiers and police against monks and other peaceful protestors," said Adams.

"Now they should account for those killed and shed light on the fate of the missing."

The organisation called for stronger action by the international community, in particular the UN Security Council and countries which have good relations with Burma, to pressure the regime for change.

"It's time for the world to impose a UN arms embargo and financial sanctions, to hurt Burma's leaders until they make real changes," said Adams.

"Countries like China, India and Thailand have the responsibility to take action to help hold the generals accountable and to end this long nightmare of military repression."

Reporting by DVB

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