Asia Crisis

Myanmar '07 crackdown worsened bad rights record-US

WASHINGTON, March 11 (Reuters) - Myanmar's violent suppression of pro-democracy marches last September made the military-ruled country's already poor human rights record even worse, the United States said in a report on Tuesday.

"Burma's abysmal human rights record continued to worsen," said the State Department in its annual report looking at human rights around the world 2007. Burma is the former name of the Southeast Asian country.

"Throughout the year, the regime continued to commit extrajudicial killings and was responsible for disappearances, arbitrary and indefinite detentions, rape, and torture," the report said.

At least 31 people were killed when the junta sent troops to crush pro-democracy marches led by Buddhist monks in September, according to the United Nations and other agencies.

Some rights groups put the death toll much higher and noted that the reported dead did not include Buddhist monks.

"At year's end many of the monks had not returned, and many remained missing," said the State Department report.

Myanmar's junta "did not honor its commitment to begin a genuine discussion with the democratic opposition and ethnic minority groups," it said.

"Defying calls from the U.N. Security Council and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations for the early release of all political prisoners, the regime continued to hold opposition leaders under incarceration, including Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, who remained under house arrest," added the report.

Suu Kyi, who has been under house arrest since May 2003 and for most of the past 17 years. Her National League for Democracy won the country's last elections in 1990 but the military that has ruled the country since 1962 ignored the result and stayed in power.

"Private citizens and political activists continued to 'disappear' for periods ranging from several hours to several weeks or more, and many persons never reappeared," the State Department report said. (Reporting by Paul Eckert, editing by Alan Elsner)