EXTERNAL AI Index: ASA 16/14/96
EXTRA 73/96 Fear of torture / Legal concern 21 May 1996
MYANMARDozens of pro-democracy activists arrested
Over 45 pro-democracy activists have been arrested in the last two days from
their homes throughout Myanmar. Amnesty International fears that they may
be facing torture and ill-treatment in custody and may have been arrested solely
for exercising their rights to freedom of expression and association. Reports
indicate that arrests are likely to continue over the next few days.
According to reports, those arrested are members of parliament-elect who won
seats in the 1990 general election. However it seems that the wives of two
MPs were arrested in their stead, as the MPs were not at home at the time.
Some of the MPs are reported to be held under house arrest and some have been
taken in for interrogation.
Tension in Myanmar has mounted recently between the State Law and Order
Restoration Council (SLORC, Myanmar's military authorities) and the National
League for Democracy (NLD, the political party founded by Daw Aung San Suu
Kyi which won the 1990 elections). Attacks against the NLD in the
government-controlled press have increased markedly. The NLD had planned a
meeting of elected representatives at Daw Aung San Suu Kyi's home to mark the
sixth anniversary of the its victory in the elections. The meeting was to take
place from 26-29 May. The arrests have been widely seen as a pre-emptive attempt
by the SLORC to prevent the meeting from occurring.
Torture and ill-treatment is common in Myanmar both during initial interrogation
and after sentencing. In addition, conditions in the country's prisons fall
far short of international minimum standards, with lack of access to proper
medical treatment, overcrowding, and insufficient food all commonplace.
This latest series of arrests is the largest in a SLORC crackdown on NLD members
and supporters. Since November 1995, when the NLD withdrew from the
SLORC-controlled National Convention, there has been increasing harassment
of the party by the SLORC, including arrests of dozens of party members. Many
people have been detained for possessing videotapes of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi's
weekend speeches, others for writing a poem commemorating the death in custody
of an NLD colleague, still others for satirizing the military in an NLD
performance (see UA 04/96, ASA 16/03/96, 10 January 1996 and updates and UA
23/96, ASA 16/06/96, 1 February and updates). Amnesty International is gravely
concerned at the growing pattern of arrests aimed at silencing NLD activity.
The SLORC took power following the violent suppression of widespread
pro-democracy demonstrations in 1988. Hundreds of people were killed during
the military crackdown, with hundreds more arrested and imprisoned in 1989.
General elections held in 1990 resulted in an overwhelming victory for the
NLD. However the SLORC refused to hand over power and has continued to rule
by decree since 1988. Freedom of expression, association and assembly are
severely restricted in Myanmar, and anyone expressing opposition to the SLORC
is at risk of arrest. Although over 2000 political prisoners have reportedly
been released since April 1992, hundreds remain in prison.
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send telegrams/telexes/airmail letters in English
or your own language: