Dozens held by Myanmar military for sparking unrestOctober 7, 1998
Web posted at: 4:34 a.m. EDT (0834 GMT)
YANGON, Myanmar (CNN) -- Members of Myanmar's opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) were among 54 people detained Wednesday for alleged involvement in student demonstrations.
Authorities said those arrested were activists linked to anti-government exile groups funded by overseas organizations.
Government spokesman Col. Thein Swe accused several organizations, including the New York-based Open Society Institute founded by billionaire George Soros and the Jesuit Refugee Service, of involvement in a plot to create unrest.
"Those detained are in custody now and arrangements will be made to take legal action against them," said Thein Swe.
Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and some party members, working with the expatriate activist-backed All Burma Student's Union and the exiled and foreign organizations, had joined forces to stir up the unrest, the government said in a statement.
Suu Kyi and NLD officials were unavailable for comment on the government charges.
The statement said the students had timed the unrest, which included student protests at some university campuses, a street demonstration by 18 foreigners in August, car sit-in protests by Suu Kyi in July and August, and an NLD call for convening a parliament of representatives elected in the May 1990 election.
Blind eye to election results
The military ignored the results of the 1990 election, which the NLD won by a large margin.
The ruling State Peace and Development Council has flatly refused to call a parliament as sought by the NLD.
The NLD has said that since May 27, the number of its members held by the military totalled 967.
The groups identified by the government as being involved in inciting unrest were operating from the Thai side of the border, the government statement said.
Exiled Myanmar groups named were the National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma, the Karen National Union guerrilla group, the All Burma Students Democratic Front and the Alternative Asean Network of Burma.
Touching on the involvement of the Open Society Institute and the Jesuit Refugee Service, the statement said they had aided and financed the activists. "The OSI and JRS only constitute the tip of the iceberg for there are a large number of other groups similarly occupied," it added.
Vatican has no idea
"As a matter of fact, it is doubtful if the religious leaders of the Vatican are even aware that the JRS in Thailand has been aiding and abetting those insurgents and lending them a hand in committing violence and unrest in the country," it said.
"It is possible that the leaders of the Vatican would be most pained if they should come to hear of these transgressions."
But a JRS spokesman in Thailand denied the group's involvement in any Myanmar unrest.
"We had absolutely no involvement in the student demonstrations or any others demonstrations, absolutely none," said Jon Greenaway, information and research officer at the Jesuit Refugee Service Asia Pacific office in Bangkok.
Confusion may have arisen because the agency offered counseling services to people seeking refugee status as a step towards asylum and some of them were Myanmar students, he said.
"This is a counseling and advisory service with no political involvement," he added.
Reuters contributed to this report.
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