Continuing arrests in Myanmar

Police on street during protests, Yangon, Myanmar

Police on street during protests, Yangon, Myanmar

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While a number of prisoners in Myanmar (formerly Burma) have been released, Amnesty International estimates that at least 700 prisoners of conscience arrested in the course of the peaceful protests of last autumn remain in detention.  Furthermore, approximately 1,150 political prisoners detained before the September protests remain imprisoned.  

Despite assurances to the contrary given by Prime Minister Thein Sein to UN Special Representative Ibrahim Gambari in early November, Amnesty International is dismayed that the government has, in fact, continued to arrest men and women believed to be peaceful political activists. 

The continuing arrests and trials of prisoners of conscience associated with the demonstrations held last autumn are taking place amidst a backdrop of pervasive human rights abuses in Myanmar. Amnesty International believes that more than 80 persons are unaccounted for since the September demonstrations, and that they are likely to be the victims of enforced disappearance.

Amnesty International also continues to receive reports of torture and other ill-treatment in detention and extremely inadequate prison conditions. A villager in Rakhine state allegedly died as a result of torture in detention on 25 November. There has been no progress toward allowing the ICRC to access detained persons, which could help to prevent further human rights violations including torture and enforced disappearances.

The organization is also concerned about renewed reports of human rights violations in Kayin state, including extrajudicial killings, attacks on civilians and forced displacement. These follow the 2006-2007 military offensive in Kayin state in which crimes against humanity were perpetrated by the armed forces against civilians.

Since 1 November 2007, the organization has counted at least 96 arrests: 
November arrests – 45 total
  • On 2 November, National League for Democracy (NLD) members Aung Kyaw Moe and Tin Yu were arrested.
  • On 4 November, NLD member Zaw Zaw was arrested at a coffee shop in Yangon’s Kyeemyindaing Township.
  • On 4 November, U Gambira, head of the newly-formed All-Burma Monks Alliance and a leader of the protests, was arrested and reportedly charged with treason, while two of his family members previously detained as ‘hostages’ in an attempt to force him out of hiding, have been kept in detention.  
  • On 5 November, U Khaymarwuntha, a 20-year-old monk from Yangon’s Zantila Kamahtan monastery, was arrested for his involvement in the September demonstrations.
  • On 12 November, four women and an elderly man were arrested for campaigning against the dam project on the Irrawaddy River in Kachin State.  They were freed from a police station two days later.
  • On 13 November, Su Su Nway, a member of the youth wing of the main opposition NLD party, was arrested during the visit of the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Myanmar to the country.  Fellow youth activist Bo Bo Win Hlaing was arrested along with her while putting up anti-government posters.
  • On 14 November, at least three people were arrested in a fruit and vegetable market in Yangon for passing out anti-government pamphlets.
  • On 15 November, authorities raided a monastery in Sittwe, located in western Rakhine State, and arrested monk U Than Rama, wanted for his involvement in the September protests there.  He was reportedly beaten during the raid and his whereabouts remains unknown.  
  • On 15 November, a monk was beaten and taken into custody when the Aung Dhamma Pala monastery in Yangon was raided.
  • 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 20 November, senior NLD member Myint Naing was detained.
  • On 20 November, politician Soe Win was arrested.
  • On 20 November, ethnic Arakanese leader U Tin Ohn was detained and his whereabouts remains unknown.  Other ethnic leaders, including Arakanese Cin Sian Thang and U Aye Thar Aung; Naing Ngwe Thein from the Mon National Democracy Front; and Kachin political leader U Hkun Htoo, were rounded up as well on 20 and 21 November but were released after questioning.  
  • 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 26 November, Aung Zaw Oo, a member of the Human Rights Defenders and Promoters group, was arrested while sitting in a teashop in downtown Yangon, likely on account of his involvement in planning events for International Human Rights Day on 10 December.
  • On 26 November, Rakhine State NLD chairman San Shwe Tun was re-arrested after being released from Akyab prison on 5 November after serving a three-year jail term.
  • On 27 November, Win Maw, lead guitarist in the popular Shwe Thansin band, Myat San, a former long-term political prisoner and a member of the Tri-Colour Students Group and Aung Aung, a friend of the two men, were arrested in a Yangon tea shop.
  • On 27 November, Win Maung, an SPDC village secretary from Rakhine State, was arrested for his involvement in the September protests.
  • 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 28 November, U Khin Hla, an NLD secretary in Rakhine State, was arrested.
  • In November, a Burmese rapper was arrested for paying tribute at a concert to the monks who led September’s demonstrations.
December arrests – 29 total
  • On 2 December, Hajee Amir Hakim, a 52-year-old man from Rakhine State, was arrested for writing a letter to the BBC detailing SPDC human rights abuses against Rohingya minority.  He was released the following day after his relatives bribed a police officer.
  • On 2 December, Aung Zaw Win, a lay person, was arrested 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.
  • In mid-December, seven activists, including former political prisoners Aung Aung, Aung Gyi, Myat Hsan and Win Maw, were arrested for trying to send video footage of the September demonstrations to international media.
  • On 17-18 December, five NLD members were arrested in Rakhine State for organizing poster and graffiti campaigns against the government.
  • On 18 December, nine members of the Shan State Nationalities Liberation Organisation, including battalion commander major Bar Pray (alias Ye Naing), were arrested, reportedly for political reasons.
January arrests – 22 total
  • On 2 January, former student activists Ko Ko Maung and Ko Min Han was arrested.
  • 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 3 January, two NLD youth members were arrested.
  • On 3 January, a monk and two laymen were arrested in Yangon during a house raid in search of an activist.
  • On 4 January, Htet Htet Aung, Ko Kyaw Kyaw and Kyaw Zin Win, all NLD youth members, were arrested.
  • On 13 January, U Par Lay and U Maung Soe were arrested.
  • On 15 January, two NLD youth wing members, Soe Min Oo and Kalar Shae, were arrested in Rakhine State after shouting slogans such as 'Restore Democracy', 'Release political prisoners including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi', and 'Reduce Commodity Prices'.
  • 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.
  • In January, Ko Aung Gyi, former editor of the sports magazine 90 Minutes, was arrested in Yangon.

On 3 December, Myanmar Police Chief Khin Yi announced at a press conference that protesters from the September demonstrations would not be prosecuted if they had acted peacefully: "Only those individuals involved in arson or the possession of illegal weapons will be brought to trial."

However, several dozen prisoners of conscience have been sentenced to prison terms since the crackdown, including at least 15 since 1 November.  The charges leading to conviction include giving water to protesting monks.

November sentences – 6 total
  • On 7 November, Thet Oo, Zaw Htun and Myint Aye, all members of the Human Rights Defenders and Promoters group, were sentenced to two years in jail in Pegu Division.
  • On 9 November, Ba Myint and a fellow NLD member in Kachin State were sentenced to two years in prison, after being tried secretly and without access to a lawyer in prison courts in Bhamo and Myitkyina prisons respectively.
  • On or just before 16 November, Nyunt Aung was sentenced to two years in Shwebo prison.
December sentences – 9 total
  • On 5 December, Win Maung, an SPDC village secretary from Rakhine State, was sentenced to two and a half years in prison for his involvement in the September protests.
  • On 21 December in Sagaing Division, Shwe Thway was sentenced to two and half years in prison, and Ko Zaw Gyi and Ko Yazay to two years, on charges of giving water to protesting monks in September.
  • On 18 December, NLD member Win Myint was sentenced in Yangon to three years in prison for the alleged possession of a nine-inch knife.  He had previously resisted the government’s request to resign from the NLD.
  • On or just before 12 December, U Khin Hla, Secretary of the Taunggok NLD, was sentenced to at least four years in prison for helping to start an NLD-led demonstration in early September. His sister had also brought charges against him following a family dispute.
  • In December, U Zantila, abbot of Zantila Rama monastery, was sentenced to two years in prison for defamation after complaining about the seizure of money from the monastery during a raid.
  • In December, U Khin Hla, a secretary for the NLD in Rakhine State, was sentenced to four years in prison.
  • In December, Ko Win Maung, a member of a village council in Manaung Township, was sentenced to two and a half years.

Read more:

Arrests of political activists increase in Myanmar (News, 25 January 2008)

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