Press Releases


Public statement by the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma)
Date: August 27, 2007

(August 27th, 2007) A minimum of one hundred human rights activists and peaceful protesters were arrested by security forces and civilian militias of Than Shwe’s military regime in Burma from August 21st – 25th, 2007. The regime falsely reported that only 64 protestors were arrested, including famed activist Min Ko Naing.

The protests began after the Than Shwe’s regime suddenly increased fuel prices by up to 250%, resulting in huge increases in the price of basic commodities. The move puts basic survival out of reach for many people of Burma.

The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), which monitors closely the arbitrary arrests, torture and imprisonment of democracy activists by the Burmese military junta, today, issued a list of 100 names of those arrested. The list refutes the claims of the regime’s newspaper “Light of Myanmar” report of August 25th.

The AAPP, which is staffed by former political prisoners from Burma, calls for Than Shwe’s regime to respond to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights by treating all detainees humanely and release them immediately.

“I am sure those arrested are now being tortured by the junta”, said Tate Naing, the Secretary of AAPP who spent over four years in prison. “We know from firsthand experience that those arrested in Burma are always brutally tortured – both physically and psychologically – immediately upon arrest,” he added.

Facts

Since the first peaceful demonstration on August 19th, over 100 people have been arrested and detained. Around midnight on August 21st, fourteen leaders of the 88 Generation Students, including Min Ko Naing, were arrested. Min Ko Naing is Burma’s second most influential opposition leader after Aung San Suu Kyi, the world’s only imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize recipient. He has won several international human rights, and he and several contemporary activists had already spent more than a decade in prison for their leading role in organizing the 1988 popular uprising that brought down the then Burma’s strongman General Ne Win and his “Socialist” party from power.

On August 22nd, State-run newspapers accused them of “agitating” to undermine Burma’s stability and security. The regime claimed the human rights leaders were attempting to organize “terrorist acts” in order to disrupt its “National Convention”, a constitution-drafting process that is widely expected to enshrine military rule in Burma. The newspapers also reported that those arrested were being “interrogated” – a euphemism for torture in Burma -- and would be dealt with under order No.5/96. The draconian order by the regime provides for imprisonment up to twenty years for anyone who criticises the on going National Convention openly.

The authorities have also been conducting feared midnight searches of the homes of prominent activists, confiscating “illegal items” such as computers and mobile phones. The arrests and searches have been carried out by the police, members of “the Union Solidarity and Development Association” (USDA) and another paramilitary group called “Pyithu Swan Arr Shin” – PSAS (People's Power Group).

The Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA) is a government-run organization that was founded in September 1993 by top military leaders of the military regime. It has become a civilian wing of the junta and it is frequently used by the authorities to enforce obedience by the general population through violence and intimidation. It is the same organization that attempted to assassinate Nobel Peace Prize recipient Aung San Suu Kyi on May 30, 2003, an attack which resulted in 100 of her supporters being beaten to death by USDA members.

The PSAS is a branch of USDA and composed of civilian henchmen, including many with criminal records. They are paid about 3,000 Kyats (approximately US $2.3) per day to attack and rob demonstrators. According to reliable sources, the SPDC has started to recruit Muslim civilians to participate in these organizations (USDA and PSAS) in an attempt to stir up religious tensions with the predominantly Buddhist population in Burma, in order to move public’s attention from serious political issues.

“Members of USDA and PSAS are equipped with iron batons covered with plastic. These weapons are deliberately used to cause severe internal damage but avoid any external bleeding (and media attention),” said Tate Naing.

During the demonstrations -- which took place on 19, 21, 22, 23, 24 and 25 August, the USDA and PSAS members brutally attacked demonstrators and media personnel both verbally and physically, stole valuables and many other items. The regime appears to be utilizing the USDA and PSAS to defend its policies, attack the protestors and contain the demonstrations. If this tactic to quell the demonstrations fails, the SPDC will use riot police and then the army, which have been moved into key positions and are on stand-by away throughout major cities.

The responses by the SPDC to the legitimate and peaceful demonstrations prove once again that there is a total lack of respect for fundamental freedoms and human rights in Burma. Individuals’ rights to freedoms of opinion, expression, association and assembly are systematically denied, despite the fact that as a member of the United Nations, the government of Burma is obliged to respect the fundamental rights of all persons enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

In light of the recent events, we, AAPP, strongly urge the SPDC to:

• Release all detainees unconditionally and immediately and ensure that no-one will be subjected to torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. We remind the SPDC that under international law, governments cannot commit torture under any circumstances even “during a time of public emergency which threatens the life of the nation.”

AAPP also appeals to the members of the United Nations Security Council, especially governments of United States, United Kingdom, France, Italy and Indonesia to:

• Discuss the situation in Burma immediately at the UNSC and ask for the UN Secretariat to brief the Council on the situation in Burma and formulate an appropriate and collective action to stop regime-sponsored violence in Burma once and for all.

For more information, please contact: Tate Naing, Secretary, at (66) 8 1287 8751 and Bo Kyi, Joint Secretary at (66) 8 1324 8935

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List of Persons Who Have Been Detained by the Burmese Military Junta in Connection with the Recent Peaceful Demonstrations from August 21-25, 2007

 

 
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