Burma: 18 Foreign Human Rights Activists are on 5th Day of Detention


Urgent Appeal Case: UA980814

The 18 foreign human rights activists remain in prison without charges for the FIFTH day for distributing pro-democracy a red business-card-sized leaflet in Rangoon. With these words as "goodwill message": "We are your friends from around the world. We have not forgotten you. We support your hopes for human rights and democracy. 8-8-88 Don’t forget — Don’t give up."

The junta now claims that the foreign human rights activist had broken three laws.

12 August 1998, nobel laureate Ang San Suu Kyi has made her fourth attempt in recent weeks to leave her home to meet supporters outside Rangoon. But her trip in a minibus was stopped about 27 km from Rangoon and the government is requesting her to return home – for the 2nd day the opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi is still station by the roadside . The government has intensived action against the National League for Democracy (NLD). The NLD had set a ultimamum in June for the government to convene the parlaament with Members of Parliament elected in 1990 by 21 August 1998. The NLD had won the 1990 election.

Below are updates on actions and response from different countries and groups in the Asia-Pacific region.

AUSTRALIA: The Vicary family is working closely with the Burma Support Group Sydney and other organizations to implement a media and lobby campaign.

As in other countries media coverage has been substantial.

The Foreign Minister has made a clear statement supporting the actions of the 18 and called for the release of the Australian being detained:

Excerpts from press conference: Mr. Downer, Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs, 12 August 1998

"A couple of things that I want to talk about this afternoon. The first is in relation to Ms Vicary who is being detained in Rangoon, in Burma. Ms Vicary as you know is an Australian citizen, she was with a number of other people detained after handing out leaflets in Rangoon. Our priority first of all has been to get consular access to Ms Vicary, and secondly we want her released of course. During the course of last night consular officers from the Australian Embassy in Rangoon were able to get to Ms Vicary. She is staying in accommodation about 10 or 12 kilometers outside of Rangoon, which is a police guesthouse, is the way it is described. I understand that she is in good health. The Consular Officers were able to deliver some food to her, some reading material and writing material. We very much hope that she will be released before too long, it is important to us that she is released and that she is able to return unhindered to Australia should she wish to. But at least on the positive side se is in good health and as the other 17 who have been detained.

"…Well, Ms Vicary has been doing what people around the world do, and that is just mount a very peaceful protest. I think what this does is simply expose the regime in Burma in a way that it deserves to be exposed, that it is a regime that doesn’t allow any dissent, any discussions, any debate, and as we and many of the ASEAN countries and many western countries have been arguing there needs to be proper political reform in Burma. They need to move away from a military dominated government to a government which has, if you like, broad civil authority…."

BURMA: The immediate feedback from Rangoon was appreciation and excitement. Many people heard about the actions of the 18 and felt very grateful for the support. Many people heard the news from VOA, BBC, RFA and DVB Burmese language radio broadcasts, as well as through the grapevine. They hope the 18 will be released soon.

All media in Burma is government-controlled. Myanmar TV carried footage of the 18 and justified their detention. This had the effect of informing more Burmese citizens of what happened (the have become skilled at reading between the lines).

Both local and foreign activists are punished by the Junta. They release on 6 August 1998 foreign activist James Mawdsley who was arrested in September 1997after he chained himself to a fence in central Rangoon and shouted anti-government slogans (he has both British and Australian passports) . James Mawdsley was sentenced in May 1998 to five years in jail and fined for entering the country illegally. After months in prison he is now deported after pleas from foreign diplomats.

INDONESIA: Indonesian activists responded by immediately organising a picket in front of the Burmese embassy in Jakarta.

Foreign Minister Ali Alatas said that the detainees will be deported as soon as possible.

Representatives of family and organizations will be meeting with the Indonesian Foreign Ministry today (August 12).

RESPONSES: Indonesian groups met with their Foreign Ministry today and were informed: 1. While the govt. maintains the policy of ‘non-interference’, it is privately felt that the action was not wrong

2. The Ambassador in Rangoon has submitted two written requests, one personal and one formal, requesting the release of the Indonesians

In addition, the Ambassador, accompanied by the political affairs secretary and defense attache met the Indonesian detainees for the second time this evening. The Ambassador brought in his *mobile phone* and persuaded the authorities to allow the prisoners to phone family members during the visit.

The Indonesian Foreign Ministry will also be assisting a family member who plans to travel to Burma to visit one of the detainees. They will escort the relative to the Burmese Embassy to obtain a visa. They have assured the relative that they will host him in Rangoon and facilitate a family visit. However, the relative will have to travel at his own expense as the Ministry has no budget for this.

MALAYSIA: Malaysian groups have come out to protest the arrests. Press conferences have been held and statements from activists and politicians issued.

Representatives held a meeting with the Foreign Ministry and were appalled to learn that the line adopted by the govt. is that the Malaysians broke the law and must abide by the decision of the authorities. Family members who rang the Malaysian Embassy in Rangoon were told not to call there. They were instructed to call the Foreign Ministry in Kuala Lumpur but did not give a contact name. The Foreign Ministry switchboard denied knowledge of the arrests, thus causing increased anxiety among the families. This is grossly in contradiction with the position and actions of other related governments and embassies, and bizarre in comparison to the local media coverage.

Later, family members were put through to an officer in KL who said the Malaysians were well but complained that they were uncooperative" – no further details were given.

Dr. Kua Kia Soong, director of SUARAM and former MP for PJ Utara, and Mr. Chong Ah Pok, Jonson’s father, will be flying into Bangkok to give a press conference together with other family and organisation representatives from the region to press for an international effort for the release of the 18 people.

PHILIPPINES: President Estrada has instructed the Foreign Ministry to "get the Filipinos out of jail". Ambassador to Rangoon HE Brady has made this her priority.

A big campaign participated by 19 local organizations and family members was quickly launched. The Burmese Embassy was picketed and the support team is holding a 24-hour vigil outside the Embassy until the 18 are released.

President Joseph Estrada urged the military to release two Filipinos detained, according to Deutsch Presse Agence. "I wish to express my deep concern over this matter," said Estrada, "I requeset the government of Myanmar to respect the rights of the 2 Filipinos and ensure their safety and humane treatment.

Philippines Foreign Secretary Dmonigo Siazon invoked the spirit of friendship and cooperation among 9 members of ASEAN in calling for the detainees’ release. Siazon was scheduled to discuss the situation with his counterpart Myanmar Foreign Minister U Ohn Gyaw and said he will send one clear message during the conversation: "Let my people go".

THAILAND: The Foreign Ministry of Thailand was the first Asean country that adopted the position that the 18 had not done anything wrong by handing out goodwill messages and therefore should be released.

Thai organizations (academics, law, rural poor, volunteer, human rights, students, political) announced their support for the actions of the 18, saying they were merely exercising their rights under Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The organizations will send a team of family members, lawyers, doctors and human rights documenters to Burma later this week to meet with the Thai detainees, and hopefully other nationals.

Thais have joined a round-the-clock vigil in front of the Burmese Embassy in Bangkok. Burmese activists started the vigil on August 3 to mark the 8888 anniversary and have now incorporated demands for the release of the 18 into their action. A minimum presence of 60 people is maintained there.

Meanwhile, Thai media have been giving the matter prominence, all of it favorable. The Matichon newspaper ran a substantial news story featuring the mother of Ms Chanakan, the 22-year-old student activist. Chanakan’s mother declared she was proud of her daughter’s efforts to promote human rights and democracy in Thailand and Burma.

Thai organizations also plan to hold another press conference on Friday August 14 and invite representatives of family and organisation of the detained to participate. They are unable to afford airfares from Australia or the US. They are trying to find money for 2 reps from the Asean countries affected. If you are able to find the money to travel from other sources, you are most welcome to participate.

USA The US State Department and US Embassy in Rangoon became very cooperative after the matter of privacy protection was cleared up.

Strong statements are being issued and Ms Kristen Hagestrom from the Embassy is actively following the matter through.

US activists have begun the media campaign and are undertaking a range of activities. The US State Department made a statement on 11 August 1998 for the prompt release of the 6 Americans.

New Jersey Republican Representative Chris Smith, chairman of the House Sub-committee on International Operations and Human Rights has flew to Bangkok to get into Burma and help secure the release of all 18 Human Rights activist detained by the Burmese government.


Address : Datuk Abdullah Ahmad Badawi Minister of Foreign Affairs Wisma Putra, 50602 Kuala Lunpur. Tel : 603-2488088 Fax : 603-2415258

Request the following :

1. Urge the Malaysian Government to assert its sovereignty and demand the immediate release of its local citizens. 2. Mention also that other ASEAN partners – Philippines and Thailand have demanded for the immediate release of their citizens and Malaysia should follow likewise. 3. It is important to remind that the three Malaysian Human Rights Activists Jonson Chong, Ong Ju Lyn and See Chee were there just to attend a solidarity event to commemorate the anniversary of student massacre in 1988.They never not part of any criminal act but were merely conveying goodwill and friendship to the peace-loving people in Burma.


We urge you to write letters and solidarity messages to three Malaysian Human Rights activists as well as others c/o the Malaysian Embassy in Rangoon.

Please also request the embassy to pass the letters to the detainees in the earliest possible time.

Address : Embassy of Malaysia 82, Diplomatic Quarters, Pyidannggsu Yeiktha Road, Yangon.

Ambassador : Dato Abdul Wahab Harun First Secretary : Mr. Kennedy Jawan.

Tel: 95-1-220248/220249/220251 Fax : 95-1-221840


i) Write protest letters urging the immediate release of the ALL THE 18 Detainees and your concerns to Diplomatic representives of Myanmar accredited to your country.

Burma Embassies

MALAYSIA: Embassy of the Union of Myanmar 10, Jalan Mengkuang, Off Jalan Ru, 55000 Kuala Lumpur. Ambassador : U Saw Tin Tel : 03-4560280/4570680 Fax : 03-4568320

AUSTRALIA: 22 Arkana Street, Yarralumla, Canberra,A.C.T 2600 Australia, Tel: 2733811,2733751 Telex: MYANMAR AA 61376 Fax: 2734357

BANGLADESH: Chancery No.89(B) Road No,4, Banani, Dhaka-13, Tel: 601461,601915 Fax: 88-02-883740 Telex: 122519 UNIM C Fax: 42 2 370646

FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF GERMANY: Schumannstr, 112,5300, Bonn 1. Tel: (0228) 210091 Telex: 8869560 MYAN D Fax: (0228) 219316

FRANCE: 60,Rue De Couwelles, 75008 Paris. Tel: 4225 5695 Telex:

MYANMAR 642490 F Fax: 4256 4941

CANADA: 85 Range Road, Apartment No.902903 The Sandringham. Ottawa, Ontario, KIN 816, Tel: (613) 232-6446 Telex: 053-3334

INDIA: 3/50 F, Nyaya Marg, Chankyapuri, New DelIhi-1 10021 Tel: 600251,600252 FAX: 327204 Telex: 61295 UNIMAR IA

HONG KONG: Myanmar Consulate General, Room 2424, Sun Hung Kai Centre, 30 Habour Road, Wanchai. Telex: 371504 MYANMA IL Fax: 972 3 5493866

ITALY: Via Vincenzo Bellino 20, Interno 1,00198 Rome Tel: 8549374, 8416863 Telex: 625103 MERM I Fax: 8413167

JAPAN: 8-26, 4 Chome, KitaWhinagawa, Shinagawa-ku, Tokyo 140. Tel: (03)3441-9291/5 Telex: MYANMARJ 32289 Fax: (03) 3447-7394

SOUTH KOREA: 7323-1,724-1, Hannam dong,Yongsan-ku, Seoul. Tel: 792-3341,796-9858

NEPAL: Chakupat, Patan Gate, Lalipur,Kathmandu, P.O.Box No. 2437. Tel: 521788,524788 Telex: 0891 2396 MYANMAR NP Fax: 977 01 523402

PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF CHINA: No.6, Dongzhi Men Wa Street,ChaoyangDistrict, Beijing, Tel: 5321584,53521425 Telex: 085-210416

REPUBLIC OF SINGAPORE: No. 15,St. Martin’s Drive, Singapore 1025. Tel: 2358763,2358704 Telex:RS21467 UNIMAR Fax: 2355963

UNITED KINGDOM: 19 A Charles Street, LondonWIX8ER Tel: 071-629 6966 Telex: UNIMASL K28921 Fax: 796-5570

SRI LANKA: 17,Skelton Gardens, Colombo 5, Tel: 587607,587608 Telex: 22844 UNIMM CE Fax: 580460

THAILAND: 132 Sathorn Nua Road, Bangkok 10500. Tel: 2337250,234498 Telex: 20971 MEBT TH Fax: (662) 2366898

THE PHILIPPINES: 4th Floor, Basic Petroleum Building, 104,Carlos, Palancajr. Street, Legaspi Village.Makati Metro, Manila. Tel: 8172373 Telex: 66017 MYANMARPN Fax: 6328175895 Telex: 267609 MYAN-MAG Fax: 071 629 4169

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: 2300 S Street, N.W. Washington D.C.20008 Tel: (202) 332-9044 Telex: 248310 MYAN UR Fax: (202) 332-9046

Document Type : Urgent Appeal Case
Document ID : UA980814
Countries : Burma (Myanmar),