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Myanmar police raid monasteries, arrest monks as violence continues

[JURIST] Myanmar police arrested dozens of Buddhist monks during dawn raids on two monasteries Thursday, one day after police opened fire on anti-government protesters [JURIST report], killing at least eight and arresting over 300. Also Thursday, police again fired shots [BBC report] near crowds of protesters, killing one person. It is unclear whether the shots were aimed at or above the crowd. It is also not clear exactly how many monks were arrested during Thursday's dawn raids, but a monk from the Ngwe Kyar Yan monastery estimated that 70 of the 150 monks in residence there were arrested. A witness at a second monastery reported the arrest of several others.

The monks are leading the protests against the government, which they accuse of human rights abuses, including the detention of demonstrators who peacefully protested a sharp rise in fuel prices in August. Tens of thousands of citizens have joined the marching monks in what has become the largest demonstration in the country since a pro-democracy uprising in 1988. The government tolerated the anti-government protesters for a month, but on Tuesday, the military government banned public gatherings [JURIST report] of more than five people and imposed a curfew in response to the anti-government protests [BBC Q&ampA]. The New York Times has more.

In response to Wednesday's violence, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon dispatched [UN press release] his Special Envoy to Myanmar and urged peaceful dialogue with the junta leaders. The United States and the European Union issued a joint statement [text; AFP report] calling for an end to the violence and looking to "China, India, ASEAN [Association of Southeast Asian Nations] and others in the region to use their influence in support of the people of Burma/Myanmar." Earlier this week, US President George W. Bush announced US sanctions against Myanmar [speech text, PDF; JURIST report], supplementing the current visa ban on alleged perpetrators of human rights abuses. Myanmar has been governed without a constitution since the military regime took power in 1988. Talks on a new national charter [JURIST report] have been underway for 14 years. It is not yet clear who will draft the actual constitution or how that process will occur, but the Myanmar government has pledged to put the resulting document to a vote in a national referendum.

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