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Letter from Ko Min Lwin (Smuggled o
Subject: Letter from Ko Min Lwin (Smuggled out of SDC) in an open letter to the editors of The Nation
Below please find a letter I just received from Ko Min Lwin ("Burmese Gets Jail
Sentence" The Nation, 22 November, 1999).
Your newspaper failed to give the other side of the story in that article, but
given what is happening to all Burmese in Thailand these days, that is hardly
I myself left the so-called "safe area" only four months ago for resettlement
in the US, and I am still very familiar with conditions there.
Thank you very much for your attention to Ko Min Lwin's letter and my comments
Dr. Kyaw Thet Oo
2002 Maryland Ave.
Flint, MI 48506
25th November 1999
Now I am under detention in Special Detention Center (SDC).
The reaon was that I had a fight with about twenty Safe Area Security Police.
I was beaten up, arrested, and then detained in SDC. On that night, Nway Aung
was shot. The news that camp security shot the students in the Safe Area was
not publicized. He was wounded in the leg, with the bullet hitting the bone.
He will probably have to have his leg amputated because of this injury.
On the day of the incident, the Camp Security Police and the police on the MOI
(Ministry of Interior) got drunk. A large group of them assaulted me. I was
beaten all over my whole body. As I lay on the ground, I was told I would be
taken to the hospital. Instead, I was taken to the police station and put in
jail. At the police station, I was forced to sign the papers of confession.
I want you to publicize the news in US, not only for me but also for all
dissident Burmese students.
In the Safe Area, the Thai authorities laid two layers of barbed wire. The
armed Thai authorities maltreat Burmese students. They have even shot
students. They are doing whatever they want to do without any intervention.
I would like to request you to help my family.
Min Lwin (Signature)
The incident in the Burmese Student Center (Safe Area) on 16th November 1999
Ratchburi Court sentenced Min Lwin to four months imprisonment with Bt. 2,100
fine on 21st November 1999. The Nation newspapers of Thailand mentioned that
he was charged of obstructing and assaulting authorized officials.
The truth of the matter was that a camp security police saw Min Lwin holding a
child's toy gun, belonging to one of the children in the Safe Area. Later,
when he was asked to surrender that gun, he explained that it had been just a
toy gun. But the drunk camp security police were not satisfied with that answer
and started to beat him. Since he fought back, more police arrived and joined
in beating him. At last they police numbered about twenty. Because he was
injured, the higher authorities came and ordered him sent to the hospital for
treatment. Instead, he was taken to police station and put in jail. There, he
was forced to sign the papers of confession. Clearly he could not read Thai
well enough to understand those papers.
The Nation mentioned that "Min Lwin was the first to face trial after Burmese
students at the Maneeloy Center conducted a series of assaults on Thai and
UNHCR High Commissioner for Refugee official". I found that The Nation's
comment echoed the claims of Thai authorities. Actually, the students did not
conduct any assault on Thai or UNHCR officials. Since the siege of the Burmese
Embassy in Bangkok, the students of Safe Area in Maneeloy Village have been
enduring a lot of unjust and unnecessary pressure. Some Thai authorities
simply want to please the SLORC/SPDC after they lost face during the handling
of Burmese Embassy siege. They cannot produce the five members of Vigorous
Burmese Student Warriors, so they are punishing and oppressing the Burmese
residing in the Safe Area instead.
At present, the Safe Area has been divided into two parts with the barb wire
fence. The Camp is heavily guarded by three hundred armed soldiers (why
soldiers?), along with police and camp security police. For one part of the
camp, the main kitchen cooks and distributes the food, whereas in the other
part, the residents are given nothing but dry rations. I wonder whether it is
discrimination or an example of "divide and rule"? The Burmese Students'
Center (Safe Area), formerly an open refugee camp, has been changed into a
strict detention area resembling a concentration camp. That situation remind
us of what we've heard of happenings years before in Cambodian refugee camps
under high security, that is arbitrary arrests, rapes at night, forcible
deportations and even extra-judiciary executions of those who resisted Thai
In the mean time, we have no confidence in UNHCR's policy on Burmese refugees.
Our understanding is that UNHCR's role is to provide protection and assistance
to refugees. Now, we see UNHCR closing its eyes and turning its face aside.
We honestly think that UNHCR (Thailand) and Thai officials are on the same side
in the current issue. They are together against those Burmese who desperately
need their protection. UNHCR is witnessing the massive, wholesale deportation
of Burmese workers from its branch offices in Kanchanaburi, Mae Sot and
Maesariang. Yet, UNHCR (Thailand) remains silent and makes no comment, protest
or negotiation to ease the situation.
Likewise, UNHCR is making no effort to protect the rights and well-being of the
Burmese refugees, recognized by UNHCR itself as Persons of Concern now in the
Safe Area. What else can we conclude except that UNHCR (Thailand) is passively
and shamefully following what Thai authorities want for all the hapless Burmese
in Thailand, including those political refugees and displaced people UNHCR
itself is mandated to protect.
Dr. Kyaw Thet Oo