August 21, 2007

UN and international community must demand their immediate release

The regime ruling Burma today arrested key democracy activists in midnight raids. The new round of arrests happened on the eve of planned mass protests to be held in Rangoon on Wednesday. The planned protest follows fuel price increases of up to 500 percent imposed by the regime last week.

High profile members of the 88 Student Generation of democracy activists are believed to be among those arrested, including Min Ko Naing, Ko Ko Gyi, Ko Mya Aye, Ko Yin Htun and Ko Jimmy.

“The regime has been trying to persuade the international community that it has a roadmap to democracy and will reform, but this exposes the raw truth, the regime will tolerate no dissent, not even peaceful protest,” said Mark Farmaner, Acting Director of the Burma Campaign UK. “The United Nations must set a deadline for genuine reform, including the release of all political prisoners. We have had 19 years of regime lies and 19 years of the international community dithering while thousands of Burmese people are arrested, tortured and killed.”

There have been protests in Burma since the regime massively increased fuel prices last week.  A recent protest led by the 88 Generation Students grew to up to 700 people as people joined them as they marched.  The price rises are causing real hardship such as increased costs of basic foods. Even before the price hikes inflation was estimated at 30 percent.

Unconfirmed reports received by the Burma Campaign UK indicate that other democracy activists are also being arrested, including members of the Myanmar Development Committee, who earlier this year held a high profile protest against food price increases, and student activists. These include five university students arrested in the afternoon of Tuesday Aug 21 by members of the Union Solidarity Development Association (USDA) – the regimes civilian militia – and plain cloth police officials, while they are pasting a poster with demands to reduce the high prices of fuel and basic commodities. They are (1) Kyaw Ko Ko, 25-year old, first year Chemistry, Dagon University, (2) Nyan Oo, 21-year old, Third Year Medical, Institute of Medicine No. 2, (3) Yar Zar Mon, 20-year old, Third Year Medical, Institute of Medicine No. 2, (4) Nyan Linn Oo, 19-year old, Third Year Geography, University of Distant Education, and (5) Nyi Lwin Oo, Third Year Medical, Institute of Medicine No. 2.
The crackdown comes just a few weeks before the UN Envoy to Burma, Ibrahim Gambari, is due to visit Burma. He is expected to report back to the United Nations Security Council following the visit, which will be his third to the country.

“Those arrested face a real danger of being brutally tortured,” said Mark Farmaner. “Gordon Brown has been silent on Burma since becoming Prime Minister. He must ensure that the British government does all it can to secure their release. Questions also have to be asked about why the UN and governments stayed silent in recent days even though this new crackdown had been expected.”

There will be a demonstration at the Burmese embassy in London at 12 noon on Wednesday 22nd August. 19a Charles Street, Mayfair, London. Nearest tube Green Park.


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