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Burmese regime admits arresting 3,000 in purge

By Andrew Buncombe

The Burmese regime has rebutted international criticism of its crackdown against democracy campaigners, revealing that 3,000 people have been arrested and saying that it will continue its repression.

"We will go ahead. We will not deviate from our path," the regime said in a commentary published in the official New Light of Myanmar newspaper. "We will get rid of the barriers and obstacles on the way."

The newspaper said that 2,927 people had been detained and 468 remained in custody. Observers and exile groups believe that many more are still being held in jails and detention centres since the crackdown was launched against last month's marches and demonstrations.

The defiant words from the military regime came as three democracy activists still at liberty inside the country released a letter they addressed to the UN Security Council calling for a blanket ban on arms sales and investment to Burma.

"This may be the last letter we send to you before our own arrest and torture and we send it with the utmost urgency," wrote Tun Myint Aung, Nilar Thein and Soe Htun. The three activists are members of the 88 Generation Students Group, an organisation that was at the forefront of an uprising in 1988 which resulted in a brutal crackdown by the regime and the death of up to 6,000 people.

The group led marches and protests this summer, which were eventually joined by Burma's Buddhist monks and tens of thousands of ordinary citizens.

The UN has called on Burma's neighbours to put pressure on the regime. The special envoy, Ibrahim Gambari, on a visit to Malaysia as part of a tour of six Asian countries, said: "Now is the time to work together so that the good offices role of the secretary general can deliver concrete results."

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