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Burma Releases More than 1,500 People Detained in Pro-Democracy Protests


Burmese state media say authorities have released more than a thousand people detained for joining the pro-democracy protests that were stopped with brutal military force last month.

The "New Light of Myanmar" newspaper says today - Sunday that more than half of the 2,093 people detained for the protests were released Saturday in Rangoon. It also says authorities freed about 400 Buddhist monks of the 533 taken away by government security forces in Rangoon.

The report says 78 additional people have been questioned about their participation in the protests. It does not say whether they were arrested.

It is unclear exactly how many monks and other demonstrators actually were detained during the protests last month. Human rights groups have said more than a thousand monks are unaccounted for.

Authorities began making the arrests after tens of thousands of people took to the streets of Rangoon and Mandalay to call for freedom and democracy. The demonstrations ended after government forces opened fire on crowds of protesters. Several people were killed.

Witnesses and officials in neighboring Thailand have told VOA that at least 300 Burmese monks have fled to Thailand since the crackdown.

Some of the monks on the Thai-Burmese border told VOA Saturday they plan to return to Burma to continue their fight against the military dictatorship. They said political change can only come from inside the country.

A UN envoy traveled to Burma this past week to discuss the situation with the country's military leaders and detained pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

After the visit, Burmese state television broadcast images of Aung San Suu Kyi Friday for the first time in at least four years.

Information for this report is provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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