(photo credit: AP)
Security guards beat, kicked and withheld lifesaving medical care from protesters detained during Myanmar's crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrations, leaving some to die, a dissident group said Thursday.
The Democratic Voice of Burma, a Norway-based short-wave radio station and Web site run by dissident journalists, said its report was based on interviews with at least a dozen freed prisoners.
The report came as the United Nations Security Council said it "strongly deplores" the violent crackdown and called for a "genuine dialogue" between the military rulers and pro-democracy opposition.
Myanmar's military junta has said that 10 people were killed and nearly 2,100 arrested in last month's demonstrations which were violently crushed when soldiers opened fire on crowds. About 700 detainees were later released, it said. Diplomats and dissidents say the death toll is likely much higher and up to 6,000 people were seized, including thousands of monks who led the rallies.
"They beat everyone, including women and girls," the dissident group quoted an unidentified female detainee as saying. "I was beaten myself. Monks were targeted and they were not only beaten but also verbally abused by security officers."
"I heard people shouting and crying from the interrogation room and then, I saw an army medical surgeon carrying people away," said the woman. The group said she was held at the Government Technical Institute detention center in Yangon for five days following the crackdown.
The government has long rejected allegations of torture of political prisoners.
DVB, which has supplied reliable information in the past, also reported that a 48-year-old detainee, U Than Aung, died Thursday at a detention center in Yangon. He was arrested on Sept. 27 and suffered severe internal injuries, and died when he was not given immediate medical attention, the group said, citing sources close to the institute.
The group, which has members inside Myanmar, also released a video of an unidentified man who said "dozens" of detainees died. Another man was quoted as saying he saw two people die from severe beatings at Yangon City Hall. One boy died after authorities withheld medical treatment for a gunshot wound, and even drinking water, the group quoted him as saying.
Human rights groups have long accused the military government of abuse and torture of prisoners. The Thailand-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, comprised of around 100 former inmates, has put out a report describing homosexual rape, electric shocks to the genitals, partial suffocation by water, burning of flesh with hot wax and other abuse.
The embattled junta on Thursday accused Western powers and foreign media of inciting the protests.
The New Light of Myanmar newspaper, a mouthpiece of the ruling junta, dismissed pro-democracy protesters as "stooges of foreign countries putting on a play written by their foreign masters" in an attempt to discredit the anti-government movement.
The paper singled out "big powers" and radio stations - the British Broadcasting Corp., Voice of America and Radio Free Asia - as behind the demonstrations.
Authorities, meanwhile, continued their hunt for dissidents and their supporters.
A popular Myanmar actor and social activist, Kyaw Thu, and his wife, Myint Myint Pe Khin, were arrested on Wednesday, relatives said Thursday. Kyaw Thu had openly supported the protest and set up a support committee offering food, water and medical treatment to demonstrating Buddhist monks.
Kyaw Thu went into hiding when his colleague, Zarganar, a comedian known for his anti-government jibes, was arrested on Sept. 26. It was not known what happened to them after their arrests.
The United States and other countries have pressed for wide international sanctions against Myanmar, formerly Burma, to pressure the junta to allow democratic reforms, but close ally China on Thursday said only a more conciliatory approach would work.
"The international community should help in a constructive way to help Myanmar to realize stability, reconciliation, democracy and development," said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao.
The UN Security Council later Thursday issued a compromise statement approved by all 15 council members - including China - that emphasized "the importance of the early release of all political prisoners and remaining detainees."
The council statement was read at a formal meeting shortly after the United Nations announced that Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is sending a UN envoy back to Myanmar next week to press fro reconciliation between the junta and the opposition.
The military's top leader, Senior Gen. Than Shwe, has offered to meet detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi on condition she reject calls for sanctions. Her party - the National League for Democracy - also has called for dialogue.
A series of groups have come out in recent days calling for moves against the regime.
Human Rights Watch, for instance, had urged the Security Council to impose and enforce an arms embargo on the country. India, China, Russia, and other nations are supplying Myanmar with weapons that the military uses to commit human rights abuses and to bolster its power, the group said.
The Jewelers of America, meanwhile, sent letters to the US Congress to expand a ban on imports from Myanmar to include gemstones, the group said Wednesday. Myanmar exports at least US$60 million (â‚¬42.41 million) a year worth of gems including rubies, sapphires, pearls, and jade.