Reports indicate that on July 24, 2007, six members of a group, Human Rights Defenders and Promoters (HRDP), dedicated to the promotion of human rights in Burma were sentenced to between four to eight years’ imprisonment for “intent to cause public disturbances” in Myanmar. The six members included: Ko Myint Naing (also known as Myint Hlaing), Ko Kyaw Lwin, U Hla Shien, U Mya Sein, U Win and U Myint. These individuals are still imprisoned and are in the process of lodging an appeal to the Higher Court.
The six individuals had played an active role in the organisation of a human rights education seminar held on April 17, 2007, which led up to an assault on April 18, 2007, against six HRDP members who had taken part in the seminar, namely Myint Aye, Maung Maung Lay, Tin Maung Oo, Yin Kyi, Myint Naing and Kyaw Lwin. As four of the six activists returned home from the seminar on April 18th, they were assaulted by more than 100 individuals, including members of the Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA), the civilian wing of the Burmese military government. Two of the activists sustained severe beatings as a result of the attacks and were hospitalised in the neurological ward of the Yangon General Hospital.
Subsequent to the attack, Mr. Myint Naing filed a criminal complaint against various government officials for the injuries he suffered. However, to date, only three low-level officials and three civilians have been reprimanded and no senior official has been held to account or has been called as witness.
In addition, another activist, Mr. Ko Min Min, was arrested on July 10, 2007, for having played a leading organisational role in a human rights education session on July 9, 2007. The July 9th event had attracted 25 members of HRDP as well as other activists and students and included discussions on the importance of United Nations human rights instruments and talks on how better to raise awareness of human rights and human rights mechanisms among the Burmese people. Further, on July 30, 2007, Mr. Min Min was condemned to three years’ imprisonment and a fine of 300,000 kyats (USD 30) for having given what the government deemed to be “illegal tuition classes” on human rights. At the time of Mr. Min Min’s arrest, officials confiscated copies of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Human Rights Watch reports that since September 2007, the Burmese government continues to hold more than 1,800 political activists in prison as a result of their involvement in the peaceful political activities last fall. Many of the activists have remained in custody since August and September. Since its initial crackdown on monks and political activists last year, the Burmese government continues to pursue a policy of repression rather than reform. Despite the Burmese government’s plan to hold a constitutional referendum in May 2008, announced earlier this month (February 2008), the government recently arrested two journalists of Myanmar Nation magazine for obtaining information about the political crackdowns last year and the UN’s response to those events. The two journalists were arrested on February 15, 2008, and have been detained without charge in police custody. During the week of February 19, 2008, the special UN envoy to Burma, Ibrahim Gambari, will meet with officials in various Asian countries, including Indonesia, China and India in an effort to gain support for political change in Burma. Mr. Gambari will then meet with Myanmar’s military rulers during the first week of March 2008 to discuss the country’s “roadmap to democracy”, including its’ plans to bar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi from taking part in elections.
Letter by Gail Davidson sent on September 25, 2007.