MYANMAR/BURMA: 19 members of a single human rights group detained, imprisoned or missing

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) is writing to you today to draw your attention to the systematic targetting of members of a human rights group by the authorities in Myanmar, and to call for you to work closely with other United Nations special procedures and bodies on their behalf.

As you are aware, there have been thousands of persons and monks taken to unknown locations in Myanmar since the beginning of the protests after the 15 August 2007 fuel price increases. The government has acknowledged that over 2000 have been held; the true number is believed to be far higher, as is the number of alleged casualties.

There are no reliable details of numbers or circumstances of detention, as people have not been arrested or handled in accordance with any law, but by the government’s own admission, have simply been “taken, investigated and interrogated”. The AHRC is hourly receiving reports of new arrests, alleged torture and deaths in custody, indicating that the crackdown begun in September is continuing unabated.

Among those taken have been many members of the Human Rights Defenders and Promoters group, which has in recent years sought to give instruction on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and conventions on women and children to which Myanmar is a party, as well as document and discuss cases in accordance with the domestic law.

At least 12 members of the group have been taken since August 24. The AHRC has reason to believe that they are among persons being deliberately targetted for imprisonment. The details of the persons, to the extent known to the AHRC at this time, are as follows:

1. U Myint Aye (a.k.a. U Maung Sein): Chairperson of the HRDP group, 56 years old, arrested on 24 August 2007, around 11:30am, near his personal residence at Makyidan Hill, East Ward, Kyimyindaing Township, Yangon, as he was taking food to his in-laws’ house for his wife’s birthday celebration; arresting persons identified as the Kyimyintaing Township Peace and Development Council chairman, U Aung Kyaw Moe, and officials, along with Special Branch police led by Deputy Superintendent Win Myint. U Myint Aye suffers from diabetes. His place of detention and charges against him are unknown.

Two persons taken on 15 September 2007 have been charged with distributing illegal materials under section 5(j) of the 1950 Emergency Provisions Act (actions with intent “to affect the morality or conduct of the public or a group of people in a way that would undermine the security of the Union or the restoration of law and order”). They are:

2. Ko Thet Oo, 39, residing at Hsisa Rd, Pyay, Bago Division; married with one son and one daughter

3. Ko Zaw Htun, 34, residing near Kothaungkyi Pagoda, Pyay, Bago Division

The case against the two men is already being heard in the Pyay Township Court. Next hearing date is 12 October 2007.

Police personnel have temporarily detained and intimidated witnesses and have threatened them that they will be included on prosecution lists unless they testify against the accused.

4. Ko Kyaw Soe was taken from nearby his house in Taunggyi, Shan State, around 10am on 17 September 2007 by local officials. His wife was also reportedly taken and their 8-year-old daughter sent to stay with other relatives. No further information is as yet available concerning his case.

5. Ko Htun Htun Soe (a.k.a. Ko Than Myint) was arrested by police officers in Indaw, Sagaing Division, on 3 October 2007; other details on his whereabouts are also currently unavailable.

Three HRDP male members were arrested by police officers in a single operation on the evening of 3 October 2007 in Shwebo, Sagaing Division. They have been identified as:

6. Ko Aung Myo

7. Ko Min Nyo

8. Ko Maung Maung Than

The AHRC has not yet obtained further details concerning their cases.

Four other HRDP members who are reported to have been taken but whose other details are as yet unknown have been named as:

9. Ko Tin Ko, M, taken on 10 September 2007

10. Daw Khin Waing, F, taken on 27 September 2007

11. U Aye Ko, M, taken on 27 September 2007

12. Ko Htun Htun Ngyein, M, taken on 30 September 2007

These incidents all follow those cases earlier in the year in which seven members of the same group were already imprisoned for lengthy periods on spurious allegations, about which we have communicated with you previously, including six sentenced by the Hinthada Township Court, Ayeyarwaddy Division on 24 July 2007 under sections 505(b) and (c) of the Penal Code, despite there being neither any material evidence nor a case of any substance brought against them:
13. Ko Myint Naing (a.k.a. Ko Myint Hlaing), 40 (eight years’ imprisonment)

14. Ko Kyaw Lwin, 40 (four years’ imprisonment)

15. U Hla Shein, 62 (four years’ imprisonment)

16. U Mya Sein, 50 (four years’ imprisonment)

17. U Win, 50 (four years’ imprisonment)

18. U Myint, 59 (four years’ imprisonment)

Ko Myint Naing was himself the subject of a violent attack in April about which you had communicated with the government of Myanmar earlier.

Finally, on 10 July 2007 another HRDP member was taken, charged and convicted, in his case of illegal tuition under section 23 of the 1984 Tuition Law, also in Pyay, Bago Division being:

19. Ko Min Min (a.k.a. La Min Htun), 30 (three years’ imprisonment)

We are aware that at this time there is considerable international attention to the situation in Myanmar, but it has still not been matched by adequate measures to afford even the most basic protections for the citizens of that country, least of all human rights defenders who are being systematically targetted, including the 19 persons named above. Accordingly, we call upon you to redouble your efforts in conjunction with other parts of the UN human rights system in order that the International Committee of the Red Cross be given access to all detainees, the UN Special Rapporteur on Myanmar be permitted to visit the country–preferably with a delegation–and a special monitoring mission be set up under United Nations auspices in order that it be able to ascertain the current conditions, especially for detainees and human rights defenders, within the shortest possible time.

We anticipate your shared concern for these persons and prompt intervention on their behalf.

Yours sincerely

Basil Fernando
Executive Director
Asian Human Rights Commission, Hong Kong

1. Professor Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar
2. Mr. Ibrahim Gambari, Special Envoy of the Secretary General on Myanmar
3. Mr. Diego Garcia-Sayan, Chairperson, UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances
4. Ms. Leila Zerrougui, Chairperson, UN Working Group on arbitrary detention
5. Mr. Patrick Vial, Head of Delegation, ICRC Myanmar

Document Type : Open Letter
Document ID : AHRC-OL-035-2007
Countries : Burma (Myanmar),