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Myanmar Exiles Say Schools Closed

August 7, 1998

BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) _ An exile group of Myanmar students claimed Thursday that the country’s military regime is cracking down on opponents ahead of a sensitive anniversary marking 10 years since nationwide anti-government protests.

The All-Burma Students Democratic Front reported that schools had been closed in the southern city of Mergui after 100 high school students marched peacefully through the streets Tuesday to celebrate the looming anniversary. No arrests were reported, though the student leaders were reportedly put under surveillance.

The student group, which has good contacts inside the tightly controlled country, also claimed 11 members of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy have been detained since Sunday in Chauk Township, central Myanmar.

Documents, literature and materials including tapes of Suu Kyi’s speeches were reportedly seized in raids at their homes.

A government official, on condition of anonymity, denied the claims, describing them in a faxed statement as ``fabrications and wishful thinking.″

The official said that the Mergui protest was an attempt by about 40 non-students to whip up unrest, but they were ignored by students. In Chauk, an NLD member was questioned in connection with distributing papers, but no one was detained.

The student group, which the ruling generals consider a terrorist organization, is composed of students who fled the country, also known as Burma, in 1988 and took up arms after soldiers killed thousands of people to quell protests against military rule.

The protests had built over several months in the capital, Yangon, but spread nationwide to other cities on Aug. 8, 1988. The date, 8-8-88, has become an emblem of the pro-democracy movement in a country where many people take numerology seriously.

The anniversary comes two weeks before a deadline set by Suu Kyi, winner of the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize, for the ruling State Peace and Development Council to convene the parliament elected in 1990 but never allowed by the military to meet.

The elections were overwhelmingly won by Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy. The military, which has ruled Myanmar since 1962, was surprised by the electoral defeat.

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