Re: Members of HRDP – Nonviolent demonstrations in Myanmar
To: Senior General Than Swe and others
From: Gail Davidson, Executive Director, LRWC
We have been following the news of recent events in Myanmar very closely. The news of Myanmar, including videos and photographs, is now prominent in news media throughout the world.
We are very concerned for the safety of the public who are joining demonstrations in huge numbers. We understand that many governments throughout the world have urged your government to show. LRWC joins with all those in the international community appealing to your government to avoid any use of force against any persons involved in nonviolent demonstrations currently taking place in various places throughout Myanmar.
We are alarmed by reports that the government has threatened to use military force to disperse further protests. We are very disturbed by reports that soldiers have infiltrated or plan to infiltrate demonstrations disguised as monks with plans to instigate violence. We urge all authorities and individual soldiers to avoid any such tactics and instead to maintain peace and nonviolence and to use negotiation to end the conflicts in Myanmar.
We have also received information that in August 2007 at least 18 persons were detained after participating in public demonstrations against fuel price increases. Those reportedly detained include Paw U Tun (also known as Min Ko Naing), Ko Ko Gyi, Pyone Cho (also known as Htay Win Aung), Min Ze Ya, and a number of other activists and university students. The four persons named above are among those detained on 21 and 22 August 2007 after participating in demonstrations against fuel price rises. We are aware that these four people were formerly student leaders in the 1988 pro-democracy demonstrations. They are reported to have been taken to Kyaikkkasan Detention Centre in Yangon. Another five activists are believed to have been taken to Shwe Pyi Thar Police Base No. 1 in Yangon. It is reported that authorities did not produce arrest warrants for any of the activists. We are also very concerned to hear information that the detained individuals are at risk of ill-treatment or torture by authorities.
We urge authorities to release all these individuals from detention immediately and unconditionally unless they are charged with an internationally recognizable criminal office and brought to justice in an impartial, independent court.
We have been advised that the four above mentioned activists, Paw U Tun (also known as Min Ko Naing), Ko Ko Gyi, Pyone Cho (also known as Htay Win Aung), Min Ze Ya may be charged under Law 5/96, which provides for up to 20 years imprisonment for anyone who is found guilty of expressing opinions which disrupt the stability of the state, or “undermine, belittle and make people misunderstand the functions being carried out by the National Convention.” LRWC is concerned that these broad provisions of Law 5/96 make it an offence to undertake peaceful expression of political beliefs. Thus, this law allows authorities to charge and arbitrarily detain people for their belief and opinions. Peaceful expression of belief an opinion is a fundamental human right upheld by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Therefore, we urge your government to repeal this law and release all those charged or detained pursuant to its provisions.
Finally, we are extremely worried by reports that on Sunday September 23, 2007, Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, was removed from her home in Yangon where she has been detained under house arrest since 2003. It is reported that she was taken to Insein prison after she appeared in front of her house to greet monks who were allowed by authorities to walk in procession and pray by her home on Saturday September 22. We urge you to release her from detention unconditionally.
We also urge your government to ensure that all authorities treat all these detained individuals with humanely and with dignity, to ensure that these individuals are held only in an official place of detention, and that they be granted immediate access to lawyers, their families and any medical treatment they may require.
In keeping with international human rights standards, we call upon all authorities to allow all persons in Myanmar to exercise peacefully the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly without harassment, intimidation, arbitrary detention or violence.
Thank you for your immediate attention to these urgent concerns. We look forward to your response.