Monday, September 22, 2008

One year ago today, in Myanmar...

BANGKOK (AFP) — One year after Myanmar's brutal crackdown on protests led by Buddhist monks, the world remains divided on how to handle the regime, leaving democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi alone against the generals.

With the United Nations powerless to extract reforms from the military regime, the 63-year-old Nobel Peace Prize winner has used sometimes desperate measures to make her own silent protests heard.

Aung San Suu Kyi, confined to house arrest for most of the last 19 years, refused to meet UN envoy Ibrahim Gambari last month and began turning away her daily food deliveries until her thin body was so weakened that her doctor had to place her on a drip.

Just one year ago on September 22, Aung San Suu Kyi stepped out of her house, tearfully greeting Buddhist monks protesting against the military, which has ruled this poor nation since 1962.

In the days that followed, more than 100,000 people took to the streets until security forces launched a crackdown on September 26. The UN estimates 31 people were killed, 74 were missing, and thousands arrested.

Under global pressure, particularly from neighbouring China, the regime made a few concessions, notably appointing a liaison officer in October to coordinate contacts with Aung San Suu Kyi.

Just one month later, she made known her desire for higher-level talks, which never materialised.

UN efforts to launch a dialogue with her National League for Democracy (NLD) as well as ethnic leaders are now at a stalemate, while Myanmar currently holds more political prisoners -- over 2,000, according to Amnesty International -- than it did before the "Saffron Revolution."

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