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Burma: Arbitrary arrest and detention of human rights defenders and student leaders at peaceful protests
Front Line is deeply concerned following reports of the arbitrary arrest and detention of human rights defenders and student leaders Paw U Tun, Ko Ko Gyi, Pyone Cho, Min Ze Ya and Htay Kywe on 21 and 22 August 2007 following peaceful demonstrations.
Paw U Tun was Chairperson and Ko Ko Gyi was Vice-Chairperson of the All Burma Federation of Student Unions during the 1988 nationwide demonstrations against 26 years of military rule. Leading human rights defender and HIV/AIDS educator Phyu Phyu Thinn along with U Myint Aye, leader of Human Rights Defenders and Promoters (HRDP) and U Ohn Than, who was sentenced to eight years in prison following his arrest during the democracy demonstrations of 1988, were among those arrested on 23 August 2007. Members of the National League for Democracy including U Tun Myint, U Kyi Phyu, U Myo Khin, U Tin Myint, U Tin Zaw Oo, U Lay Lwin, U Zaw Zaw Aung, U Ko Ye, Tin Maung Oo, Aung Min Naing, U Phyo Min Kyin, U Khin Aye (Daw), U Myint Thein, were also arrested on 23 August 2007 at Shwe Gone Dyne, Bahan Township, Yangon. The arrests took place following nationwide demonstrations against a government decision to raise fuel prices in the country.
On the evening of 21 August and early morning of 22 August 2007, human rights defenders, including Paw U Tun, Ko Ko Gyi, Pyone Cho, Min Ze Ya and Htay Kywe were arrested by members of the security forces. The arrests followed widespread demonstrations against a Government decision to raise prices of petrol, diesel and natural gas. Reports claim that those arrested have been taken to Kyaikkasan Detention Centre in the former capital, Yangon. No warrants were produced for the arrests and according to an article published in the state-run newspaper New Light of Myanmar they will be charged under Law 5/96, which provides for up to 20 years in prison, for their involvement in "acts undermining the efforts to successfully carry out peaceful transfer of State power and facilitate the proceedings of the National Convention." Following the arrests, members of the security forces allegedly searched the homes of the afore-mentioned individuals and confiscated documents and compact discs.
Furthermore, on 23 August 2007, at approximately 11:00am a group of protesters in Yangon, including Phyu Phyu Thinn, were forcefully intercepted by members of the Swan Arrshin a branch of the Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA) and the security forces. Officers reportedly beat protesters before dragging them into trucks and taking them away. Around the same time U Myint Aye was arrested as he was leaving his home in Kyi-myin-daing. U Ohn Than was arrested at approximately 13:20pm that day at a protest in front of the American Center in Yangon. In addition, National League for Democracy Members U Tun Myint, U Kyi Phyu, U Myo Khin, U Tin Myint, U Tin Zaw Oo, U Lay Lwin, U Zaw Zaw Aung, U Ko Ye, Tin Maung Oo, Aung Min Naing, U Phyo Min Kyin, U Khin Aye (Daw), U Myint Thein were all arrested by USDA members whilst participating in a peaceful demonstration in Shwegonedine, Bahan Township, Yangon. Reports claim that many were violently beaten before being forced into awaiting vans.
Further protests have reportedly been scheduled to take place in Burma's second largest city Mandalay and in Magway in central Burma.
Previously Paw U Tun and Ko Ko Gyi spent almost 15 years in prison for organising peaceful student protests in 1988 against 26 years of military rule in Burma. Reports claim that they were subjected to severe torture during their incarceration. Similarly, Pyone Cho served almost 14 years in prison and was released in 2003 while Min Ze Ya served eight years in prison and was released in 1997. The four were arbitrarily detained for over three months between late September 2006 and early January 2007.
Front Line is extremely concerned that the afore-mentioned events form part of an ongoing campaign against human rights defenders in Burma who are being targeted for their legitimate activities in defence of human rights in the country. Further concern is expressed for the physical and psychological integrity of those arrested particularly in light of reports that they may be subjected to torture and ill-treatment.