(photo credit: AP)
A relentless crackdown on Myanmar's pro-democracy activists showed no sign of easing with the junta announcing Sunday that 78 more people have been detained in spite of global outrage and new sanctions.
The latest arrests, reported by the state-run New Light of Myanmar newspaper, brought to nearly 1,000 the number of people the military regime acknowledges holding in detention centers. In addition, it says 135 Buddhist monks remain in custody.
But dissident groups and foreign governments say more than 6,000 people have been locked up after last month's protests, the biggest in nearly two decades against 45 years of brutal military rule.
Soldiers opened fire on demonstrators, who were led by monks, on Sept. 26 and 27, bringing to an abrupt end all resistance. The government says 10 people, including a Japanese photographer, were killed in the violence.
However, other independent sources including foreign governments say the toll is likely to run into the hundreds.
The New Light of Myanmar, a mouthpiece of the junta, quoted investigators as saying 78 more people "who were involved in the protest" were being questioned. It did not say when they were detained.
These were in addition to 2,093 people who were detained earlier, of which 1,215 were released by Saturday, the paper said. Authorities also took in 533 monks for questioning "to differentiate between real monks and bogus monks."
"Out of those taken, 398 monks have been sent back to their respective monasteries," it said.
The junta's propaganda machine, meanwhile, continued to claim massive rallies across the country, allegedly in support of the government.
The paper said demonstrators denounced the recent protests "instigated" by some monks and members of democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi's party.
Demonstrators waved placards and shouted: "We want peace, we don't want terrorists." It reported four rallies in central and northwestern Myanmar, attended by 7,500, 19,000, 20,000 and 30,000 people.
Such rallies are widely believed to be stage-managed by the government, with every family in the district forced to contribute one or two members.
The junta has snuffed out the democracy movement despite international condemnation.
The European Union last week widened economic sanctions and the United States warned it would push for U.N. sanctions against Myanmar if it fails to move toward democracy.
However, China and Russia remain opposed to any action by the U.N. Security Council, saying the situation in Myanmar is an internal affair that does not threaten international peace and security. China has said it is opposed to sanctions.
While the streets of Yangon have been quiet for the last eight days, supporters of Myanmar's democracy activists came out in the thousands in cities across Europe and Asia on Saturday to mark the International Day of Protests.
"Burma is not a human rights emergency of today, last week or last month," said Irene Khan, the chief of Amnesty International, which organized the global protests.
"It is a human rights emergency that the world has chosen to forget for the last 20 years. We will not forget this time round, we will not let the people of Burma down," she said, referring to the country by its former name.
The military has ruled Myanmar since 1962. The current junta came to power after routing a 1988 pro-democracy uprising, killing at least 3,000 people. Suu Kyi's party won elections in 1990, but the generals refused to accept the results.