Amnesty International says the Burmese junta has arrested 96 pro-democracy activists since November, when it told U.N. representative Ibrahim Gambari it would stop.

At least 1,850 activists are currently being detained, including 700 who were arrested after the protests. . . Amnesty said at least 15 protesters and their supports had been sentenced to prison terms since November, and that it had received reports that detainees were being tortured. More than 80 people remain unaccounted for since then and “are likely the victims of enforced disappearance”, it added. Among those arrested recently is the well-known poet, Saw Wai, who was detained after one of his love poems was found to contain a hidden message criticising Burma’s military leader.

Radio Free Asia reports the Chinese government is cracking down on Tibetan Buddhism in advance of the 2008 Beijing Olympics:

Chinese authorities in Tibet have recruited more than 140 Tibetan youths to perform traditional dances at the forthcoming Beijing Olympics, even as they impose new curbs on Buddhist culture in the Himalayan region, sources there say. “The Chinese authorities believe that monasteries are the chief centers of Tibetan culture responsible for maintaining Tibetan identity. Therefore they are cracking down on the monasteries,” a source in Tibet said in a recent interview. Novice monks are no longer admitted to replace monks who have died, and monks rarely appear on the streets in many Tibetan cities, sources say, and this trend has become more visible and pronounced over recent months. “Now the monks are not allowed to conduct prayer sessions in temples, nor allowed to invite monks for special prayers at home,” the Tibetan source told Kham dialect reporter Tsewang Norbu. “Construction of new stupas is banned. Tibetan devotees are not even allowed to circumambulate temples and stupas.” Sources say the restrictions have been stepped up since the exiled Tibetan leader, the Dalai Lama, was awarded the U.S. Congressional Gold Medal last year.

Tibet experienced a huge surge in international tourism in 2007, and the government is using the revenue to develop rural areas in the autonomous region, according to Xinhua, the official press agency of the Chinese government. (Coming soon: a website to tell the world understand the “objective reality of Tibet.”) Prince Charles is snubbing Beijing and skipping the Olympics. His Royal Highness was expected to compete in the high jump and pole vaulting competitions. No, sorry, he was just expected to attend. He gave no reason for his refusal, but we know he thought the Chinese leadership a bunch of “appalling old waxworks” when he attended the 1997 ceremony handing Hong Kong over to China and he is considered to be an admirer of the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan people. More on the warming relations between China and Germany following the Chinese government’s negative reaction to the DL’s visit with Angela Merkel this fall: super-fast rail service between Beijing and Berlin! Trouble in Malaysia following the burial of a Buddhist man as a Muslim. Malaysia (which borders troubled southern Thailand) is 60% Muslim and about 20% Buddhist (mainly ethnic Chinese.) The man’s son claimed the man had converted to Islam before his death and so the body was taken from the family by the authorities. It is easy and encouraged in Malaysia to convert to Islam, but very difficult and in some cases illegal to convert from Islam. Rambo:

Movie fans in the United States are expected to flock to their neighborhood theaters Friday, to see the fourth installment of the Rambo series, which portrays Burmese government forces as the main villain. The series, starring veteran actor Sylvester Stallone, revolves around a U.S. veteran of the Vietnam War who engages in extreme acts of violence against an equally brutal enemy. This latest installment finds Rambo living in exile in Thailand when he is recruited to take a group of American missionaries seeking to help a group of ethnic Burmese villages caught in the middle of a civil war. He later joins a team of mercenaries to return to the village after the people there are attacked and slaughtered by Burmese government forces.

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