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Amnesty Presses UN For Burma Arms Embargo

Amnesty International is urging the U.N. security council to impose an arms embargo on Burma, and urged the country's main arms suppliers - China and India - to suspend all deals. Tendai Maphosa has more in this report for VOA from London.

Amnesty International issued a statement Monday urging the United Nations Security Council to immediately impose a comprehensive and mandatory arms embargo on Burma.

Amnesty also called on the principal suppliers of arms to Burma, particularly China and India, to stop arms deals with the country.

Since 1988, Amnesty said, China has supplied Burma's army with a range of military equipment. The group says India has also agreed to supply military equipment to Burma.

The military government crushed pro-democracy demonstrations last week when troops used live ammunition, tear gas and batons to drive demonstrators off the streets. Hundreds of people, including Buddhist monks, were arrested for their role in the demonstrations. Many monasteries were ransacked and sealed.

In a statement Amnesty's Irene Khan said a message must be sent urgently to Burma military leaders that their brutal crackdown on peaceful protesters will not be tolerated or fueled by any member of the international community.

The Burmese Embassy in London failed to respond to VOA's request for a comment on the situation in the country.

Though the full extent of the violent crackdown is not yet known, state television reports the killing of eight protesters and a Japanese journalist during the clampdown.

But Amnesty spokesperson Demelza Hauser says the numbers could very well be in the hundreds and fears a worsening of the situation.

"In the past when political opponents of the military government have been arrested they have been treated extremely badly torture and ill treatment remain an enormous concern, when people are detained they are often held incommunicado, they do not have access to anybody, they are extremely vulnerable and in a very highly charged political situation such as the one we've seen over the last week it's a great risk to those people who are detained that people don't know where they are," said Hauser.

The authorities in Burma have cut off telecommunications making it even more difficult to get information from the country. Amnesty's Hauser says the only way forward is to maintain pressure on the government.

"We do know from speaking to former prisoners that sustained pressure over a number of years did in the past bring about an improvement in conditions of detention for some prisoners," said Hauser.

The protests began with small marches against fuel price rises in mid-August. Buddhist monks then took the lead in widespread demonstrations calling for freedom and democracy in the military ruled country. Troops later ended the protests when they opened fire on demonstrators and arrested hundreds of participants.