Myanmar defends crackdown

Minister blames "political opportunists" and "neo-colonialists" but says "normalcy" returned.

     Nyan Win called on the world to refrain from measures which would add "fuel to the fire" [AFP]

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    "Recent events make clear that there are elements within and outside the country who wish to derail the ongoing process [towards democracy] so that they can take advantage of the chaos that would follow," he said.
     

    "They have become more and more emboldened and have stepped up their campaign to confront the government."

     
    'Small' protest
     
    The foreign minister said "political opportunists" exploited a small protest against the rise in fuel prices and "sought to turn the situation into a political showdown aided and abetted by some powerful countries".
     

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    They also took advantage of protests staged by a small group of Buddhist monks demanding an apology for the maltreatment of fellow monks by local authorities, he said.
     
    "The security personnel exercised utmost restraint and they did not intervene for nearly a month. However, when the mob became unruly and provocative, they were compelled to declare a curfew.
     
    "Subsequently, when protesters ignored their warnings, they had to take action to restore the situation," he said.
     
    The minister made no mention of the deaths or injuries in the crackdown against the pro-democracy demonstrators by the country's security forces, but tightly controlled state media has reported 10 killed.
     
    Diplomats and activists say the casualty figure is much higher and many more were injured and hundreds arrested.
     

    'Disciplined democracy'

     

    "The Myanmar government is fully aware of its responsibility to lead the nation in the process of transformation to a disciplined democracy," Nyan Win said.

     

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    "We have laid down a road map and will work conscientiously to achieve our goals. Significant progress has already been made.
     
    "The international community can best help Myanmar by showing greater understanding. They can begin by refraining from measures which would result in adding fuel to the fire," he said to applause from representatives of some countries.
     
    His speech comes as the UN special envoy to Myanmar, Ibrahim Gambari is to meet Senior General Than Swe, the leader of Myanmar, on Tuesday.
     
    Gambari's visit to the country is aimed at persuading the military government to halt its operations against pro-democracy protesters although it appears the crackdown has already largely succeeded in dispersing the crowds from the streets.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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