Myanmar to try protestors for arson, keeping weapons


Naypyitaw (Myanmar) : Protestors who participated in the September anti-government demonstrations in Yangon and had acted peacefully will not be prosecuted, Myanmar’s top cop said Monday.

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“Only those individuals involved in arson or the possession of illegal weapons will be brought to trial,” police chief Khin Yi said at a press conference in Naypyitaw, the country’s new capital.

It was the government’s first statement on the fate of thousands of people arrested since the anti-junta protests led by Buddhist monks in Yangon, the former capital of Myanmar.

The demonstrations, the largest since 1988, ended in a brutal crackdown Sept 26-27 that left 15 people dead, according to official estimates.

The actual death toll is believed to exceed 100.

More than 3,000 people had been arrested in the crackdown and its aftermath. With arrests still occurring on a daily basis, it is difficult to know the real number of people detained for participating in the protests, which were sparked by a massive fuel price hike announced Aug 15.

“They claim to have released 2,000 to 3,000 detainees but nobody knows how many people are still in detention,” US Charge d’Affaires Shari Villarosa said last week in Bangkok.

Khin Yi’s comments came during a news conference in Naypyitaw, 350 km north of Yangon, held to announce the continuation of the junta’s seven-step road map to democracy.

A 54-member constitution drafting committee started work on a new charter for the country Monday, Myanmar’s Information Minister Kyaw Hsan said.

It took the junta 15 years to write the guidelines for a new constitution, which must now be drafted and then passed by a general referendum, according to the junta’s seven-step plan.

The lengthy process, dubbed a sham by the international community, has lost all credibility since the September demonstrations, which were seen as a call for real political change.