Page last updated at 13:25 GMT, Friday, 4 April 2008 14:25 UK

Silent Burmese protester jailed

By Jonathan Head
South East Asia correspondent, BBC News

Monks in Rangoon, file image
Burma saw rare protests in late 2007

The Burmese authorities have sentenced an activist to life in prison for mounting a silent protest at the US embassy in Rangoon in August last year.

At a closed trial inside the notorious Insein prison, Ohn Than was sentenced and a given a fine of less than $1.

This, for a protest in which he did not utter a word, but instead carried a placard, calling for parliament to reconvene and prices to be reduced.

Thousands of people were held during anti-government rallies last year.

Many have been given heavy jail sentences.

Ohn Than was one of the first to come out against a dramatic rise in fuel prices last August; then the demonstrations were small and easily contained.

A month later, with Buddhist monks leading them, they numbered tens of thousands, and ended only when troops opened fire on them.

Ohn Than would have known what he was risking. A veteran anti-government activist, he had been detained several times before for similar protests.

At his trial he argued that pro-government groups were permitted to demonstrate freely and noisily outside the US embassy at the same time - but to no avail.

All the international pressure on Burma's rulers since last September has done little to soften their intolerance of opposition.

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