09/12/2007, 00.00
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Activist calls for Than Shwe’s excommunication, gets four years in jail

Soe Aung protested against fuel price rises and waved a placard calling for the excommunication of the junta’s strongman. Since mid-August 150 people have been arrested; concerns for the fate of 13 student leaders are expressed.

Yangon (AsiaNews/Agencies) – A court in military-ruled Myanmar has sentenced a man to four years in jail for urging Buddhist monks to excommunicate General Than Shwe, the junta’s strongman.

The man, in his late 20s, was identified as Soe Aung. He was arrested in Taunggok, northwest of Yangon, on Tuesday, quickly tried at an in-camera hearing and sentenced within a few hours, the local National League for Democracy (NLD) branch reported. The NLD is Myanmar’s main opposition party and is led by Noble Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.

In his solo protest Soe Aung called for last month's shock fuel price rises to be reversed and waved a placard urging Buddhist monks to excommunicate Than Shwe.

At least 150 activists have been arrested in more than three weeks for protests against shock increases in fuel prices and declining standards of living.

Buddhist monks joined the protest movement, but the junta has turned the screws on them too.

Thirteen leaders of the so-called "88 Generation Students Group" who spearheaded mass unrest against military rule in 1988 were arrested on August 21. Their families have appealed to the International Committee of the Red Cross to find out where they are being held and get access to them.

The US government joined the appeal on Tuesday demanding humanitarian groups be allowed to visit those detained.

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