Nearly 3,000 Detained In Myanmar

A weather-beaten and faded flag of Myanmar flies on this fishing boat just outside of the capital city of Yangon, Oct. 16, 2007.
Myanmar's military junta acknowledged Wednesday that it detained nearly 3,000 people during a crackdown on recent pro-democracy protests, with hundreds remaining in custody.

The New Light of Myanmar, a government-run newspaper, says authorities are tracking down protesters who took part in the demonstrations, which have been led by Buddhist monks and were originally sparked by economic issues, especially a sharp increase in the cost of living.

The escalating situation has prompted concern from numerous leaders around the world, from President Bush to the Dalai Lama, who has praised what he calls a "peaceful movement for democracy," urging the government not to react with violence.

"Those who led, got involved in and supported the unrest which broke out in September were called in and are being interrogated," the junta said. "Some are still being called in for questioning and those who should be released will be."

The statement said that 2,927 people have been arrested since the crackdown started and nearly 500 are still in custody.

In their last tally of arrests, the junta said that nearly 2,100 had been detained.

Everyone released from custody was required to sign "pledges" the statement said, without elaborating.

The announcement came a day after Japan canceled a multimillion dollar grant to protest the bloody crackdown and U.N. special envoy Ibrahim Gambari pressed Asian nations Tuesday to take the lead in resolving the crisis.

China, which has been uncooperative in past efforts to pressure Myanmar's military rulers, said it supported Gambari's mission. As Myanmar's closest ally and a permanent member of the Security Council, China is considered key in pushing for change in the Southeast Asian nation.

Japan had already said it would suspend some assistance in response to the death of Japanese journalist Kenji Nagai, among at least 10 people killed when troops fired into crowds of peaceful protesters during the Sept. 26-27 crackdown. Video footage of Nagai's death appeared to show a soldier shooting the journalist at close range on the streets of Yangon, Myanmar's biggest city.