- The Washington Times - Friday, February 18, 2005

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (Agence France-Presse) ” Police arrested 18 Burmese, including a woman, for participating in an illegal pro-democracy protest on Thursday outside the embassy of that country.

Criticizing the arrests, the Voice of the Malaysian People (Suaram) said the protesters, all members of the Shan ethnic minority, were being detained at Pudu police station here.

They had demonstrated outside the Burmese Embassy against the resumption in Rangoon of a national constitutional convention, Suaram spokeswoman Seah Li Ling told Agence France-Presse.

Writing a constitution is the first of seven steps in the road map to democracy laid down by Burma’s military rulers in 2003.

The convention has come under sharp Western criticism for failing to include the leading pro-democracy opposition party led by Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.

Demonstrators claimed that the convention showed the military’s intention to retain its dictatorship in Burma, Mrs. Seah said.

“It is regrettable that this has been the second mass arrest of [Burmese] nationals this year,” she added. Last month, 164 ethnic Chin activists were arrested outside the embassy after a similar illegal protest.

Public demonstrations without a police permit are banned in Malaysia.

One Chin activist was subsequently released but the other 163, including three women, are being held in two detention camps housing illegal migrants, Simon Sang, a Chin refugee community coordinator told Agence France-Presse.

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