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Military junta forces villagers to march

  • Story Highlights
  • NEW: Four activists are reported taken into custody
  • Villagers near Yangon march in support of Myanmar's military junta
  • Activist: Villagers were forced to march, threatened with steep fines
  • The march follows a government crackdown on protesting Buddhist monks
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From Tess Eastment
CNN
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BANGKOK, Thailand (CNN) -- Hundreds of villagers living on the outskirts of Myanmar's biggest city, Yangon, marched in support of the country's military junta Saturday after being threatened with steep fines if they did not, a political activist leader hiding in Yangon told CNN by phone.

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Women bow their head in respect to the state flag on Saturday at a Yangon rally.

Nilar Thein -- a key leader in the Myanmar-based group '88 Generation -- said residents of Shwe Pyi Thar village carried pro-regime placards after junta officials on Friday demanded at least one person from each household march in the government's rally. Junta officials also approached local factories and demanded they provide 50 workers.

According to the report, which CNN cannot independently verify, those who refused to march would be forced to pay steep fines.

The march comes on the heels of a massive government crackdown on peaceful pro-democracy marches led by widely respected Buddhist monks, which ballooned into mass demonstrations in late September. The monks took to the streets in August to protest the increase in fuel prices. Members of the '88 Generation group were involved in the marches.

Meanwhile, Thein confirmed two top '88 Generation leaders -- Htay Gyae and Ming Aung Thing -- have been arrested and are currently in separate detention centers in the country.

In addition, Amnesty International said another prominent activist -- Mie Mie -- had been arrested. Amesty International said one other activist was also in police custody but gave no name.

Hundreds of political prisoners have been locked in a Myanmar police compound and are facing squalid living conditions

Thein reported at least 900 detainees are being held in Mohbyee police compound in Yangon.

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Myanmar's secretive military government has placed restricted access on journalists and CNN cannot independently verify the report.

Included among the detainees are members of the '88 Generation group and National League for Democracy -- the party of detained pro-democracy leader and Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, he said.

According to Thein, imprisoned '88 members have described being kept in cramped conditions in small rooms, with some standing shoulder to shoulder, unable to lie down. Prisoners have also reported a lack of toilets, clean water and adequate food supplies.

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Some detainees have been locked up since Sept. 28, while others have been picked up as recently as Oct. 1.

In September, the opposition Web site The Irrawaddy (irrawaddy.org) -- which operates out of Thailand -- reported Nilar Thein and other 88-Generation leaders and prominent activists were being hunted down by the regime and have retreated into hiding. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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