UPDATE (Burma): First report of death in fuel protests; courts closed; monks to refuse donations from officials


Urgent Appeal Case: UP-120-2007
ISSUES: Arbitrary arrest & detention, Extrajudicial killings, Freedom of expression, Judicial system, Poverty & adequate standard of living, Rule of law, Torture,

Dear friends,

This is the latest update by the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) on the protests against fuel price increases in Burma: a leader of the protests has reportedly been tortured to death; courts in Rangoon have been closed for more than two weeks; arrests have continued, particularly in the delta area; monks in Mandalay are planning to decline alms from the military and government officials to express their discontent at the handling of a recent protest by monks that turned violent.

Here we give a short summary of recent events. Please check the news media websites listed in the new webpage at http://campaigns.ahrchk.net/burmaprotests/for the most recent information.

Kyaw Min Yu (a.k.a. Jimmy), a leader of the 88 Students Generation group, is reported to have been tortured to death in Insein Prison on September 8. However, there has not yet been any confirmation of his death by the authorities, despite requests for information from his family. The family has also sought help from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) office, but as the ICRC has been refused access to detention facilities, it has been unable to help. [See further, Burma’s long and steady downward slide (UPI Asia Online).]

Jimmy was arrested on August 21 after a peaceful march against the fuel price hikes in Rangoon (see original appeal: UA-260-2007). He had been previously jailed for 15 years for his involvement in the 1988 protests.

Two other leaders, Kyaw Kyaw Htwe (aka Markee) and Min Zeya were also reportedly hospitalized due to severe torture in custody.

The AHRC has received information that courts in Rangoon have been closed since August 20, and that persons who are being brought for preliminary hearings are being repeatedly sent back into remand without having their cases considered. The reason for the shutdown is said to be “security”. It is not clear whether or not the courts have also stopped operating in other parts of the country.

See further: AS-221-2007

The delta region, Irrawaddy Division, has in recent days seen the most arrests of protestors outside of Rangoon. Here are some reports from different towns in that area.

In Bogalay, about 20 members of the National League for Democracy (NLD) have been arrested, including chairman Aung Khin Bo, secretary Khin Maung Chit, Khin Khin Lay, Mi Mi Sein, Thet Tun, Hla Myint, Min Thu, Nyein Tun, Than Myint and Kyin Than. Most of them were arrested after a protest that drew over a thousand people on September 5.

In Lapputta, more than 15 people were arrested on September 8, including Pauk Sa, Pyone Cho, Maung Kyaw, Poe Cho, Hla Soe, Than Win, Min Sin, Thet Tin Tun and Sein Than. The police arrested them by referring to pictures taken of the peaceful protests there on September 3; three protesters–Aung Moe Win, Kyi Thein and Htay Win–were arrested on the day of the protest. Four people were released after investigations: Ko Sein Than, U Min Sin, Ko Than Wina and Ko Thet Tin Htun.

In Bassein, the authorities arrested at least seven NLD members and alleged that they were planning a protest. Those arrested are: Aye Win, Daw Myint Sein (female), Aye Aye Khaing (female), Myo Lwin, Thet Lwin, Hla Than Kyaw and Hla Htay. Aye Win had been arrested on August 24 for staging a solo protest, and he has again been arrested.

In Wakhema, at least five NLD members were arrested, including chairman U Kyi Win, Secretary U Maung Kan and three others, while they were holding a discussion. According to another report, up to nine persons were arrested. This is despite the fact that there has not been any protest in the township. It is believed that he authorities were trying to preempt any actions there.

Some civilians were arrested by Special Branch Police in Pakokku Township, Magwe Division (lower Burma), where Buddhist monks staged protests on September 5 and took officials as hostages the day after. The arrestees are worker U Than Aung, lawyer U Nay La, and traders U Thant Shin and U Sein Lay. They were accused of contacting foreign media and providing information about the protests. (For more details on the Pakokku protests, please refer to our previous appeal: UP-119-2007)

The Mandalay Monks Union has reportedly called for a nationwide “turning of alms bowls” by Buddhist monks to protest at the violent attack on protesting clergy at Pakkoku and subsequent incidents there. The boycott against accepting alms would be extended to members of the government, the quasi-government Union Solidarity and Development Association, and the government-organised Swanar-shin gangs.

Monks in Burma have historically turned their bowls as a form of protest against authorities with whom they wish to show displeasure.

Another unconfirmed report has it that the Chief of Police, Brigadier General Khin Yi (an army officer), secretly declared a state of emergency as of midnight on September 6, in order to mobilise riot police and other special units for crackdown operations. The Police Riot Control Regiments Commander, Lt-Col. Than Han (another army officer), is in charge of controlling the protests. He reportedly signed a directive dated September 7, instructing the 16 regiments under his control to be ready for combating the protests. As noted in our original appeal, Lt-Col. Than Han (wrongly identified there as “colonel”) is reported to have been the field commanding officer who led the murderous attack on a convoy of National League for Democracy members, led by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, in 2003 (see report by the Asian Legal Resource Centre).

There has been no report of the state of emergency in the state media; however, after commenting little on the protests throughout August it has on September 7, 8 and 9 issued increasingly stern warnings about the consequences of continued protests.

Since the protests broke out in Burma in mid-August, the response from the international community has remained very limited. We have urged the UN and the international community to do much more to act on the situation in Burma; however, no real intervention has taken place. Thus, if you are in a place with a representative government, please contact your local member of parliament, foreign minister or other concerned officials to ask them about what actions they have taken on the situation in Burma, and urge them to act at this critical moment.

Please refer to the sample letters of the previous appeals for templates of how to write to the UN or your local officials: UA-260-2007; UP-114-2007.

Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission (ua@ahrchk.org)