Saturday, January 26, 2008

Burma: Political activists - arrests continue despite junta's assurances


Political activists continue to be imprisoned in Myanmar, according to new research by Amnesty International. There have been 96 arrests since 1 November 2007.

Amnesty International's research completely contradicts the assurance that arrests had stopped and that no more would take place given to UN Special Representative Ibrahim Gambari in early November by Myanmar's Prime Minister Thein Sein.

"Four months on from the violent crackdown on peaceful demonstrators, rather than stop its unlawful arrests the Myanmar government has actually accelerated them," said Catherine Baber, director of Amnesty International Asia-Pacific programme. "The new arrests in December and January target people who have attempted to send evidence of the crackdown to the international community, clearly showing that the government's chief priority is to silence its citizens who would hold them to account."

At least 15 protesters and their supporters have been sentenced to prison terms since 1 November 2007. Amnesty International has also received reports that detainees have been tortured and ill-treated.

Amnesty International confirms the following arrests since early November:

On 4 November, National League for Democracy (NLD) member Zaw Zaw was arrested at a coffee shop in Yangon's Kyeemyindaing Township.

On 5 November, U Khaymarwuntha, 20-year-old monk from Yangon's Zantila Kamahtan monastery, was arrested for his involvement in the September demonstrations.

On 19 November, Ray Thein (alias Bu Maung), an NLD Secretary in Rakhine State, was re-arrested after being briefly detained in September for holding an anti-junta demonstration.

On 24 November, eight members of the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) were arrested, likely due to KIO's refusal to accede to the government's demand that they publicly renounce the November statement by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

On 28 November, U Tin Hla, member of the Federation of Trade Unions-Burma (FTUB) and the Burma Railway Union, was arrested along with his family for allegedly organising railway workers and encouraging them to join the rallies in September. His wife and two children were released after five days.

On 2 December, Hajee Amir Hakim, a 52-year-old man from Rakhine State, was arrested for writing a letter to the BBC detailing human rights abuses against Rohingya minority. He was released the following day after his relatives bribed a police officer. Aung Zaw Win, a lay person, was also arrested the same day while inquiring about evicted monks.

On 14 December, Khin Moe Aye, Kyaw Soe, Zaw Min, Min Min Soe, Htun Htun Win and Myo Yan Naung Thein, all former political prisoners and current members of the 88 Generation Students groups, were arrested for being linked to the activists who filmed the September protests and spoke to exiled media.

On 2 January, NLD members Dr. Aung Moe Nyo, Htay Myint, Sein Win, Than Htun, U Ko Oo and Nay Myo Kyaw were arrested in Magwe division, reportedly to stop them from attending independence day celebrations in a nearby township.

On 15 January, Saw Wai, poet and leader of an organization established by artists to care for orphans of AIDS victims, was arrested after authorities deciphered part of his "February 14" poem that contained a hidden message criticizing Senior General Than Shwe.

Click here to see a list of all those arrested

To date, at least 700 people arrested during and since the September protests remain behind bars, while 1,150 political prisoners held prior to the protests have not been released. More than 80 persons remain unaccounted for since the September demonstrations and are likely the victims of enforced disappearance.

Amnesty International urges the international community to ensure that the UN Human Rights Council?s Resolution of 14 December 2007, which supported recommendations of the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Myanmar, Paulo Pinheiro, is respected.

"In view of the accelerating rate of arrests and other human rights violations four months on, the international community should press the government of Myanmar to immediately invite Prof. Pinheiro back to the country to conduct the full-fledged fact-finding mission he has requested," said Catherine Baber.

Source: Amnesty International