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Last Updated: Friday, 8 August, 2003, 16:34 GMT 17:34 UK
Protests mark Burma anniversary
Demonstrators in Bangkok
Demonstrators demand the release of Aung San Suu Kyi
Protests against the military government in Burma have taken place in several countries to mark the 15th anniversary of the crushing of pro-democracy demonstrations.

Protesters in Thailand, Malaysia, Japan, South Korea, Australia, India, Bangladesh and the UK called for democratic change and the immediate release of the opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been in detention for two months.

In Burma itself, the situation has been quiet, according to diplomatic sources, with the anniversary being marked by Buddhist ceremonies and silent prayers, says the BBC's Christopher Gunness.

Reports from Burma say there has been a wave of intensified political repression over the past two months, since Ms Suu Kyi was re-arrested.

According to a member of Ms Suu Kyi's opposition party, the National League for Democracy, who escaped into exile in Thailand recently, hundreds of opposition party workers were rounded up and imprisoned and all party offices were closed down to coincide with the 15-year anniversary.

At least 300 NLD supporters, including 200 party workers and 15 MPs, have been arrested across Burma since the end of May, our correspondent says.

Call for action

Burmese exiles held peaceful protests in the Thai capital, Bangkok, demanding the release of Ms Suu Kyi.

About 30 protesters, waving placards saying "Bloody 8888, Free Burma", marched on the UN's offices, calling for tougher international action against the military junta in neighbouring Burma.

Aung San Suu Kyi
Aung San Suu Kyi has been detained since 30 May
"We want to show the world how all our leaders... and brothers and students are in jail like this. We are still waiting for our freedom," said one activist.

The slogan refers to 8 August, 1988, when pro-democracy activists rose up against military rule.

Opposition supporters say thousands of people were killed in the unrest that followed. The military government says the toll was only a few dozen.

Members of London's Burmese community released balloons opposite the Houses of Parliament to symbolise the country's struggle for freedom.

"The world cannot continue to ignore the suffering of Burma's people," John Jackson, director of the Burma Campaign UK, said.

On Thursday, security officials arrested three women who unfurled a banner denouncing Burma's authorities outside the Burmese embassy in Washington.

Deaf ears

The BBC's Larry Jagan, who is monitoring Burma from Bangkok, says that although the release of the opposition leader is now key to Burma's future, its authorities are unlikely to take any notice of the protests.

The international community has demanded Aung San Suu Kyi's immediate release and has stepped up sanctions against Burma - reports say these are beginning to have an effect.

The US and Europe are considering adopting even tougher measures if she is not released soon.

US President George W Bush last week approved a new act imposing economic sanctions on Burma, aimed at debilitating the military regime.

The BBC's Jill McGivering
"A small but passionate protest"

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