Myanmar generals lift Yangon curfew

Restrictions removed nearly one month after a crackdown on protests began.

    About 3,000 people, including many Buddhist monks, are believed to have been detained [AFP]
    The protests began after a huge rise in fuel prices in August.

    Since the crackdown troops have been removed from the streets and last week the curfew was reduced from eight hours to just four.

    The ruling generals also restored public internet access when the curfew was reduced, more than two weeks after cutting the connection to prevent images of the protests reaching the outside world.

    'Bad sign'

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    In Washington, Dana Perino, a White House spokeswoman, said that the announcement was "a bad sign".

    "The regime now feels confident that it has cleared the monasteries of dissidents by either jailing them or sending them to their home villages, and arrested all the major players in the demonstrations and sent into hiding or exile those they have not captured," she said.

    Perino urged the generals to begin talks with Aung San Suu Kyi, the detained opposition leader, and invite Ibrahim Gambari, the UN's special envoy, to return.
     
    "What we need are signs of serious intent to move toward a democratic transition," she said.
     
    Gambari is in Asia attempting to build support amongst Myanmar's neighbours for increased pressure on Myanmar to introduce democratic reforms.
     
    On Friday, George Bush, the US president, announced new travel and financial sanctions against Myanmar's military rulers.

    The government has apparently been intensifying its efforts to arrange talks with Suu Kyi, issuing a plea in the state media on Saturday for her to compromise in a bid for national reconciliation.

    'Stalemate'

    In a lengthy commentary, the state-run New Light of Myanmar newspaper said the time was right for Suu Kyi to respond positively to the offer of talks "with a view to serving the interest of all".

    "We are tired of watching a stalemate ... we should not go on like this forever," it said.

    "There should be some forms of compromise. If one side makes a concession, the other side should do so. The situation will get worse if both sides are arrogantly intransigent, refusing to budge from their stand."

    The government announced earlier this month that Senior General Than Shwe, the country's de facto leader, was willing to meet with the Nobel Peace Prize winner, but only if she meets certain conditions including renouncing support for economic sanctions against Myanmar.

    It remained unclear whether Suu Kyi would accept the offer to meet Than Shwe. They have met once before, in 2002, but the talks quickly stalled.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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