Page last updated at 06:51 GMT, Friday, 26 September 2008 07:51 UK

No progress in Burma, says group

Nuns pray at Shwedagon Pagoda shrine in Rangoon, Burma, on Friday
Some political prisoners have been released - but more have been arrested, says HRW

Repression in Burma has increased since the ruling military government crushed pro-democracy protests a year ago, says the US-based Human Rights Watch group.

The group says some 2,100 political prisoners are in Burmese jails while "pseudo-political reforms" go on.

It accuses the international community of failing to demand real reform and accountability from Burma's rulers.

The crackdown which began on 26 September 2007 was a response to weeks of peaceful protests.

The protests were partly triggered by soaring fuel costs, but demonstrators later demanded action against poor living standards and unpopular government policies.

"Last September, the Burmese people courageously challenged their military rulers, and they were answered with violence and contempt," said Elaine Pearson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

Rather than let Burma's rulers continue to engage in fruitless dialogue, the international community should demand real action
Elaine Pearson
Deputy Asia director, HRW

"The repression continues. While a handful of political activists have been released, more are being arrested and thousands remain in prison."

The group acknowledges that seven political activists were among thousands of prisoners recently released by Burmese authorities. But it says about 39 political activists were arrested in August and September alone.

It also says the authorities have done nothing to bring justice to the perpetrators of extra-judicial killings, arbitrary arrests and torture during last year's crackdown.

In the statement, the group says UN envoy Ibrahim Gambari has failed to effect any real change despite four trips to the country in the last year.

The international community, it suggests, has "let Burma's rulers continue to engage in fruitless dialogue" - and instead should "demand real action".

The military government says it has a "roadmap" for democracy, which allows for elections in 2010. It has pushed through a constitution which reserves a quarter of the seats in any future parliament for the military.

The Burmese opposition does not recognise the military-backed constitution.

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