Thousands of Monks in Burma to be imprisoned; Thousands more reported dead

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Monday, October 1, 2007

Monks Protesting in Burma, September 2007.
Image: Racoles.

Several reports coming out of Myanmar today suggest that thousands of monks involved in protests against the Burmese government will "be sent away" to prisons outside of the capital city of Rangoon. Other reports are stating that the number of monks killed by Burmese troops are in the thousands.

According to reports by BBC News, at least 4,000 or more monks have been arrested and questioned by government authorities in their recent crackdown on protests favoring democracy for the nation. It is reported that they are being held at the Government Technological Institute, the Kyaikkasan racing track and in a prison called Insein Prison. From these locations, they will be transported to prisons located in the extreme northern part of Burma. The monks have not been allowed to wear their robes and are in shackles, and some of them have been beaten. Many have also initiated a hunger strike, refusing to eat.

Although the Burmese government reports only 10 monks to have been killed, other reports from activists and media agencies say that the death toll is in the thousands.

Map highlighting location of Myanmar.

Pictures have surfaced claiming that thousands of dead monks have been dumped inside the Burmese jungles. Many of the monks who managed to escape capture from troops have dressed in civilian clothing and have begun to hide inside their temples or have fled Rangoon.

"Many more people have been killed in recent days than you've heard about. The bodies can be counted in several thousand," said a deserter of the Burmese army and a former intelligence officer, Hla Win. He also states that he deserted the army when he was ordered to kill monks in what he called a "massacre of holy men."

"I decided to desert when I was ordered to raid two monasteries and force several hundred monks on to trucks. They were to be killed and their bodies dumped deep inside the jungle. I refused to participate in this," added Win.

An unnamed diplomatic official from Sweden also claims that at least 40 monks were beaten to death, then their bodies were burned.

Meanwhile, Ibrahim Gambari, an envoy for the United Nations is in Burma attempting to resolve the issues there and meet with government officials, but he has been unsuccessful so far in arranging a meeting. New reports say that the government is making Gambari wait another day before there will be the possibility of a meeting.

"He [Gambari] will come back tomorrow and he will meet with the senior general tomorrow in Naypyidaw," said an unnamed U.N. Information Ministry official. Gambari is waiting to meet with Senior General Than Shwe, the head of the junta, to urge a resolution to the violence. This is the second day the meeting has been postponed.