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hrw/asia press release jan11.96
HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH/Asia
485 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10017
33 Islington High Street, London N1 9LH
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE January 11, 1995
For further information:
Zunetta Liddell, London 44-171-713-1995
Sidney Jones, NY 212-972-8400 x290
Mike Jendrzejczyk, DC 202-371-6592, ext. 113
Human Rights Watch/Asia Condemns New Arrests of NLD Supporters
Human Rights Watch/Asia today called for the immediate release of
thirteen Burmese performance artists and video shop workers who were
detained between January 7 and 10 in Burma s second largest city, Mandalay.
The detentions appear to be part of a pattern of harassment and intimidation
directed against members and supporters of the National League for
Democracy, the party headed by opposition leader and Nobel laureate Aung
San Suu Kyi.
Since it would be disastrous in public relations terms to put Aung San
Suu Kyi back into house arrest, the Burmese government appears to going
after her supporters instead, using draconian laws that outlaw public
gatherings, said Sidney Jones, executive director of HRW/Asia.
Of the thirteen arrested over the last week, nine were members of a
song and dance troop (A Nyein) from Mandalay and two were comedians who
had participated in a private Independence Day celebration at Aung San Suu
Kyi s home in Rangoon on January 4. They were detained on return to their
homes in Mandalay. Human Rights Watch/Asia has since learned that a
further four people were arrested between January 7 and 10.
Those arrested include two female dancers, Daw Win Ma, Hnin Par
Par, and another unidentified woman who was an assistant to the dancers. Six
members of the band were also arrested:U Tin Myint Hlaing; U Win Htay; U
Sein Hla; U Win Htway;U Thaung Tun; and an unidentified man. Two
comedians were also detained, Par Par Lay and Lu Zaw.
It is not known if any of these people have been charged. Of the group, Par
Par Lay, reportedly only released last year after eighteen months imprisonment
for his satire of members of the military government, is an NLD member. The
others are believed to be supporters of the party.
Two days before the celebration, U Win Htein, the NLD's internal
affairs liaison officer was detained for questioning. In an interview with the
British Broadcasting Service's Burmese section on January 10, U Win Htein
said that he was arrested by unidentified officials at his house at 9 pm, and
only released twenty-four hours later. The officials had no arrest warrant and
there were no police present. They questioned him through the night,
believing that he had been the main organizer of the celebration, and
reminding him of the laws concerning public gatherings. (According to a 1988
government decree, all gatherings of more than five people are prohibited.)
He was released without charge on January 3. In response to U Win Htein s
unlawful detention, the NLD established a legal aid committee, headed by
NLD Chairman U Tin Oo to intervene with the authorities in cases of unlawful
arrest and interrogation.
Prior to this incident, four members of a Karen ethnic minority
committee who were organizing celebrations for Karen New Year on
December 24 were detained for twelve days on December 23 after they had
invited Daw Aung San Suu Kyi to attend their celebration. According to
information received by Human Rights Watch/Asia, the four were Mahn Htay
Shein, chairman of the organizing committee; Saw Tin Win, member of the
NLD central committee in Pa'an, Karen State; Tin Tun Oo and Ko Myint
Htun, NLD youth members.
They had visited Daw Suu on December 23 to invite her to Insein
township, where many of Rangoon's Karen live, for the celebration. On return
to Insein that night, all four were arrested. The next morning their assistants
tried to call Daw Suu's house to rescind the invitation, but she had already left.
As her car approached Insein, it was stoppped by local council officials, who
took her to the nearby military headquarters at Gone Myint Thayar. There the
deputy regional commander, Thura Myint Maung, brought in the four men and
aske them to read out the regulations under which they had been permitted to
hold the celebrations. One of the terms of the agreement was that no political
parties would be invited. Daw Suu was then allowed to leave. Human Rights
Watch/Asia has learned that all four Karen were released on January 2 or 3,
but it is not known what legal procedures were followed, if any.
The arrests of the Karen followed the arrest of another supporter of the
NLD, U Sein Hla Aung, in December 1995. On December 21, Human Rights
Watch/Asia released a press statement condemning the arrest of U Sein Hla
Aung, after he had been detained in Mandalay for having distributed video
copies of Daw Suu's "People's Forum." The Pople's Forum is the informal
public gathering which have taken place outside Daw Aung San Suu Kyi's
home every weekend since her release from six years of house arrest in July
1995. U Sein Hla Aung was due to be tried in Mandalay on December 29, but
Human Rights Watch/Asia has learned when he arrived at the court that day,
he was told that the trial would be delayed until January 11.
Human Rights Watch/Asia has since learned that two others were
arrested in Mandalay for the same offense, Zaw Zaw Myaing and U Aung
Soe. Zaw Zaw Myaing, thirty years old, owns a video hire shop in Mandalay's
Myat Phar ward. The date of his arrest is not known, but he appeared for trial
on December 29, along with U Sein Hla Aung, and they were both due to be
tried on January 11. U Aung Soe was arrested in Mandalay on January 10.
Human Rights Watch/Asia called on the Burmese authorities to cease
the harassment and arbitrary detention of members of the NLD and allow all
Burmese to exercise their right to freedom of association.
Human Rights Watch/Asia
Human Rights Watch is a nongovernmental organization established in 1978 to monitor and
promote the observance of internationally recognized human rights in Africa, the Americas,
Asia, the Middle East and among the signatories of the Helsinki accords. It is supported by
contributions from private individuals and foundations worldwide. It accepts no government
funds, directly or indirectly. The staff includes Kenneth Roth, executive director; Cynthia
Brown, program director; Holly J. Burkhalter, advocacy director; Robert Kimzey,
publications director; Jeri Laber, special advisor; Gara LaMarche, associate director; Lotte
Leicht, Brussels office director; Juan Mndez, general counsel; Susan Osnos, communications
director; Jemera Rone, counsel; Joanna Weschler, United Nations representative; and Derrick
Wong, finance and administration director. Robert L. Bernstein is the chair of the board and
Adrian W. DeWind is vice chair. Its Asia division was established in 1985 to monitor and
promote the observance of internationally recognized human rights in Asia. Sidney Jones is
the executive director; Mike Jendrzejczyk is the Washington director; Robin Munro is the
Hong Kong director; Jeannine Guthrie is NGO Liaison; Dinah PoKempner is Counsel;
Patricia Gossman and Zunetta Liddell are research associates; Joyce Wan and Shu-Ju Ada
Cheng are Henry R. Luce Fellows; Diana Tai-Feng Cheng and Paul Lall are the associates;
Mickey Spiegel is a research consultant. Andrew J. Nathan is chair of the advisory committee
and Orville Schell is vice chair.