10/24/2007, 00.00
MYANMAR
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Demonstrations against China which holds the key to peace in Myanmar

With the UN envoy in Beijing, protests take place in front of China’s diplomatic missions in 12 cities around the world to demand the release of Aung San Suu Kyi, whose detention symbolises the military regime’s violence. Ahead of the visit by the UN's human rights investigator, Myanmar authorities are getting judges to “fabricate” formal charges against detained activists to justify their arrest. A tired population continues to hope.

Yangon (AsiaNews) – Campaigners say Beijing holds the key to Ms Suu Kyi's release. For this reason they are staging demonstrations worldwide on the 12th anniversary of the detention of the pro-democracy leader and Nobel Peace Prize laureate. Meanwhile things are apparently back to normal in Myanmar following the violent repression of anti-junta demonstrations last month. But underneath the apparent calm, residents in Mandalay and Yangon say that people are still being picked up by the police. The authorities are also fabricating charges in order to justify the continued detention of those already in prison.

A series of demonstrations are planned in 12 cities from Bangkok to Brasilia outside China's diplomatic missions. “We want China to exercise its influence over the Burmese generals. We want China to impose economic sanctions against Burma,” said a protester in the Thai capital.

China, a close ally of Myanmar’s military rulers, has come under mounting pressure to take tougher action against the military regime in the wake of a deadly crackdown on pro-democracy protests there last month. So far there have been little results since the Chinese do not believe the Burma question threatens regional security.

The United Nations envoy to Myanmar Ibrahim Gambari is in China today on one of the last stages of his diplomatic tour of Asia in support of democratic reforms in Burma.

Mr Gambari is expected to return to Burma early next month but is not likely to see any of the country's top leaders.

In Myanmar some Mandalay residents told AsiaNews that the apparent calm in the streets does not reflect the anxiety people feel people. “The economy is at a standstill, especially the tourist sector whose decline has left many workers jobless, at best working 15 days a month,” they said.

“People are scared to go out for fear of being arrested. Because of strongly-held superstitions, many believe that something really terrible is going to happen because the military insulted the Buddhist religion, something that has never happened before,” they added.

Some judges, who chose to remain anonymous for safety reasons, said their superiors have asked them “to fabricate formal charges against demonstrators so as to justify their detention, especially if the international community should demand explanations.”

The population remains on guard for what might happen next and is trying to get as much information from foreign sources.

“Everyone is talking about the upcoming visit by the UN's human rights investigator Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, hoping that the international diplomatic effort might succeed in getting a meeting between Aung San Suu Kyi and the generals.”

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