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Monks in Burma Hold First March Since September Crackdown


More than 100 Buddhist monks have marched in central Burma, the first such gathering since the military government's violent crackdown on protesters in September.

Witnesses say the maroon-robed monks did not shout any slogans or make political statements, but instead chanted prayers as they marched through Pakkoku.

A protest against rising prices by monks in the same city in early September sparked demonstrations across the country. Those demonstrations grew into large pro-democracy marches, with monks at the forefront.

Burma's government says at least 10 people died in the crackdown and that thousands were arrested. Pro-democracy activists say the death toll was much higher.

Wednesday's protest came as diplomats in Rangoon said United Nations envoy Ibrahim Gambari would arrive on Saturday for his second visit to Burma.

On Tuesday, sources said the Burmese government freed six more politicians imprisoned during the crackdown.

Hundreds are still being held and interrogated by the government.

UN envoy Gambari has been pressing the Burmese government to enter into talks with detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi. He recently made a six-country Asian diplomatic tour to press Burma's neighbors - especially India and China - to do more to pressure the country's military government.

During his upcoming visit, Gambari is likely to meet with Aung San Suu Kyi as well as Burma's top military leader, General Than Shwe.

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