[JURIST] The military government in Myanmar [JURIST news archive] on Monday threatened to punish the thousands of monks who have been leading protests against the government [BBC Q&A]. The monks are protesting rights abuses by the government, 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.
In August, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour [official website] issued a statement urging Myanmar [JURIST report] to immediately release demonstrators, saying that allowing citizens to peacefully express themselves will help foster both democracy and reconciliation in Myanmar. Earlier this month, the US also criticized [JURIST report] the rights situation in Myanmar, with President George W. Bush saying that it was "inexcusable" for the recently-concluded constitutional convention in Myanmar to have excluded opposition party members. Myanmar has been governed without a constitution since the military regime took power in 1988. Talks on a new national charter 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. Reuters has more. AP has additional coverage.