BANGKOK, Jan. 20, 2004�Up to 100 Buddhist monks have been jailed in Burma since November for allegedly breaking a government curfew aimed at quelling religious disturbances, Radio Free Asia (RFA) reports.

An estimated 100 monks are detained at the notorious Insein Prison for allegedly flouting a 7 p.m.-4 a.m. curfew on monks imposed in November last year, sources who spoke on condition of anonymity told RFA�s Burmese service.

Most of the detained monks are from in and around the capital, Rangoon, and security personnel have been posted at a number of Buddhist monasteries. Some of the monks are undergoing treatment at the Insein Prison hospital, according to one source.

The Burmese junta announced the curfew following unrest between Buddhists and Muslims in the Upper Burma regions of Kyaukse and Mandalay late last year.

Burmese Buddhist monks objected to the government�s handling of those disturbances, according to U Khemar Sarya, chairman of the All Burma Young Monks Association. The curfew was aimed at keeping them from expressing their discontent openly.

The unrest broke out in the central town of Kyaukse on Oct. 19, spreading to Mandalay and Rangoon and unnerving the ruling junta, the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC). Fires and clashes ultimately left dozens of people dead, including a pregnant woman.

"Soon we saw one corpse after another. They were taking them away to the hospital," one eyewitness told RFA�s Burmese service. While corpses were taken to hospital, relatives of the victims were barred from entering the local morgue.

The British government suggested that the junta may have incited the unrest, citing "a widespread belief amongst the Burmese people, whether Muslim or Buddhist, that these incidents have been contrived by the government to distract attention from the stalled political process, and to justify a continued military clampdown." The SPDC rejected that accusation as baseless.

In an unusual admission of trouble, the junta on Oct. 28 issued a statement to foreign media confirming "disturbances between people of different faiths" and acknowledging casualties and property damage.

In 1997, anti-Muslim riots in central Burma were characterized by some reports as being provoked by the junta. Human rights groups also point to evidence detailing anti-Muslim persecution by the government in Kayin State the same year, during which mosques were burned, Korans destroyed, and Muslims evicted from their homes.

Only about 4 percent of the Burmese population is Muslim, while Buddhists account for 90 percent.

RFA broadcasts news and information to Asian listeners who lack regular access to full and balanced reporting in their domestic media. Through its broadcasts and call-in programs, RFA aims to fill a critical gap in the lives of people across Asia. Created by Congress in 1994 and incorporated in 1996, RFA currently broadcasts in Burmese, Cantonese, Khmer, Korean, Lao, Mandarin, the Wu dialect, Vietnamese, Tibetan (Uke, Amdo and Kham) and Uyghur. It adheres to the highest standards of journalism and aims to exemplify accuracy, balance and fairness in its editorial content.#####


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