Myanmar Junta Arrests Four Political Activists

Four prominent political activists were arrested in Myanmar on Saturday as the ruling junta kept up its crackdown on pro-democracy protesters, Amnesty International said.

Activists Htay Kywe, Aung Htoo and Thin Thin Aye, also known as Mie Mie — were members of the 88 Generation Students' Group of student leaders active in a 1988 pro-democracy uprising, Amnesty said. It said a fourth activist, Ko Ko, was also arrested.

The London-based rights group said that it did not have details of the arrests, which could not be independently confirmed, but that it feared for the activists' safety.

"Amnesty International believes that these high-profile opposition figures are at grave risk of torture and mistreatment," the rights group said in a statement.

Meanwhile, thousands at a government-staged mass rally in Yangon shouted slogans against Western powers and the foreign media, whom the military regime accuses of fomenting recent pro-democracy protests.

"Down with BBC! Down with VOA! Down with Radio Free Asia!" the crowds chanted at the rally, held amid growing international pressure on the junta to negotiate with the opposition. Many in the crowd were offered cash to attend, local officials said.

People bused in from other parts of the city gathered at a sports ground for the rally, which officials said 120,000 attended.

Local officials said on condition of anonymity that they had been ordered by the government to round up delegations from various parts of the city to attend, offering some of them payments of about 80 cents a person.

The United Nations has been spearheading an international effort to push the military, which has ruled Myanmar since 1962, to enter negotiations with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and move toward democratic reforms.

The Security Council issued its first statement on Myanmar on Thursday, condemning the violence against protesters. The U.N. was dispatching a special envoy, Ibrahim Gambari, back to Asia to coordinate efforts among regional capitals before holding his second meeting with the junta.

Myanmar has rebuffed the criticism, declaring Friday that it would stick to its own plan to draft a new constitution and eventually hold elections — a plan critics say has no clear timetable and is simply a ruse to allow the military to hold onto power.

Gambari's first stop was set to be in Thailand on Sunday. Gambari met with the junta's leaders earlier this month during a four-day trip to Myanmar after troops opened fire on the peaceful pro-democracy protests in Yangon.