[JURIST] Violence erupted in Myanmar [JURIST news archive] Wednesday as police opened fire on a crowd of 10,000 demonstrators, leaving as many as eight dead. Up to 300 protesters were arrested in the fray, including many Buddhist monks. The violence broke out just one day after the nation's 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&A]. The government acknowledged via state media that the "minimum force" employed by police caused one death; it was the first official admission of the use of force against government protesters. In response to the 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." AP has more.
The protests are being led by Buddhist monks who object to 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. US President George W. Bush announced US sanctions against Myanmar [speech text, PDF; JURIST report] Tuesday, 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.