Thousands Executed, Dumped in Myanmar

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Thousands of Myanmar pro-democracy protesters may have been murdered and their bodies - along with hundreds of bodies of executed Buddhist monks may have been dumped in the jungle.

This revelation came from a former intelligence officer for Myanmar's military junta.

Speaking through a Swedish diplomat, Hia Win told a British paper, "Many more people have been killed in recent days than you've heard about."

The most senior official of the regime to defect so far, Win said he fled when ordered to take part in a massacre of monks. His statements appeared in Monday's online edition of the London Daily Mail.

His figures, however, could not be verified. Myanmar is a closed state, and exact reports of atrocities are difficult to confirm. Other human rights groups estimate that at least 200 hundread have been killed in the military crackdown on protesters.

"There are huge difficulties. It's a closed police state," said David Mathieson, a consultant with Human Rights Watch in Thailand. "Many of the witnesses have been arrested and are being held in areas we don't have access to. Other eyewitness are too afraid."

"We do believe the death toll is higher than acknowledged by the government," Shari Villarosa, the top U.S. diplomat in Myanmar, told The Associated Press Monday. "We are doing our best to get more precise, more detailed information, not only in terms of deaths but also arrests."

Win also told The Daily Mail that he believes the revolt has failed. The newspaper also reported that exiles from Myanmar confirmed that hundred of monks had simply "disappeared."

Villarosa said her staff had visited up to 15 monasteries around Yangon. They were all empty. She put the number of arrested demonstrators - monks and civilians - in the thousands.

"I know the monks are not in their monasteries," she said. "Where are they? How many are dead? How many are arrested?"

She said the true death toll may never be known in a Buddhist country where bodies are cremated. Rangoon remains under military control with high numbers of soldiers on the streets.

International Pressure Mounts

Meanwhile, international pressure is building against the military regime of Myanmar.

Worldwide supporters of the peaceful protests are joining the pro-democracy campaign, applying pressure and in the case of some governments - even sanctions against the rulers of Myanmar.

A special United Nations envoy is in the country trying to convince top military leaders to ease up on pro-democracy demonstrations.

The special envoy, Ibrahim Gambari, met with Myanmar's elected pro-democracy leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been confined under house arrest since 2003.

He also met with government officials, but did not get to see the country's top leader on Monday to present international demands. Gambari has pledged not to leave until he meets with the dictator.

The junta has never responded well to international pressure in the past. Government insiders say that Gambari would probably not be able to convince the military leaders to ease up on the crackdown.

Demonstrations Began Small, Crackdown May Be Huge

The demonstrations started small after the government hiked fuel prices. But when Buddhist monks joined in, they became the biggest anti-government protests in 20 years.

However, the situation only intensified when the military began targeting the Buddhist temples, holding tens of thousands of monks hostage.

"The people are angry but afraid - many are poor and struggling in life so they don't join the protests anymore," Thet, a 30-year-old university graduate who is now driving a taxi, said Monday.

The military has sought to limit information coming out of Myanmar. They have allowed the public Internet access to be cut and have squelched mobile phone service as well for the fourth day in a row.

Soldiers have also searched hotels for foreign journalists who may be in the country without permission.

The London Daily Mail, The Associated Press, ABC News and CBN News's John Jessup contributed to this report.

 

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