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UNION OF MYANMAR: Myanmar: Authorities must allow peaceful demonstrations

31 Aug 2007
Region: UNION OF MYANMAR
Topic: Individual at risk
As of today, it is estimated that over 150 protestors have been arrestedby police and members of the state-sponsored Union Solidarity DevelopmentAssociation (USDA). Since 19 August, small groups of peaceful protestershave demonstrated almost daily in the capital Yangon and other parts ofthe country, in reaction to a sudden state imposed rise in fuel prices.
Beatings and intimidation by members of the USDA and paramilitary group"Swan Arr Shin" have been reported in many of the recent rallies andarrests. Journalists have been prevented from reporting on events, and theauthorities have ordered National League for Democracy (NLD) youth membersin certain districts not to gather while demanding other protestors signdocuments pledging they would not join further rallies.

Amnesty International urges the Myanmar authorities to immediately andunconditionally release all those detained, unless they are to be chargedwith a criminal offence, and a court has decided on their continueddetention. The organization further calls on the Myanmar authorities toallow peaceful demonstrators to exercise their rights to freedom ofexpression and assembly without fear of arrest or violence.

Protestors are being detained at four locations. Over 50 protesters aredetained at the Kyaikkasan Detention Center, some at Shwe Pyithar PoliceRegiment. Most members of the 88 Generation Students Group are detained atInsein Prison, with one at a detention center in Mingaladon Township.Family members of detainees have not been informed by authorities aboutthe arrests of their family members and their whereabouts. None of thedetainees are known to have been charged with any offence, nor have theybeen allowed access to lawyers. The detainees have all been held indetention long beyond the 24 hour period admissible under Myanmar law.Court orders would have to be obtained for the continuation of detentionbeyond a 24 hour period.

Among the first to be detained in this latest crackdown on peacefulpolitical dissent were 14 prominent activists of the 88 GenerationStudents Group, who, according to the state-run newspaper New Light ofMyanmar on 24 August, were undergoing interrogation.

Amnesty International urges the Myanmar authorities to immediately provideadequate medical care to Ye Thein Naing, whose leg was allegedly broken byUSDA during a rally on 28 August. Fellow detainees continue a hungerstrike in Kyaikkasan Detention Centre in Yangon, demanding medicaltreatment for Ye Thein Naing.

Amnesty International is concerned that detainees are at risk of tortureand other ill-treatment, which is commonly reported during interrogationand pre-trial detention in Myanmar. Amnesty International urges thatpending their release, detainees be held in only official places ofdetention, and are granted immediate access to lawyers, family, courts andany necessary medical treatment. The authorities should also ensure thatnone are tortured or ill-treated in detention, and provide medical carefor those injured during the violent break-up of demonstrations.

Amnesty International calls on the Myanmar authorities to fulfil theirduty to investigate all reports of violence, ill-treatment andintimidation of protestors and journalists, and to bring thoseperpetrators to justice in trials consistent with international standardsof fairness.

Background
Amnesty International has long-standing concerns at the deprivation ofbasic rights in detention in Myanmar. Laws criminalise peaceful expressionof political dissent. People are frequently arrested without warrant andheld incommunicado. Torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman anddegrading treatment are common during interrogation and pre-trialdetention. Proceedings against political detainees have failed to meetinternational standards of fairness. Defendants are often denied the rightto legal counsel or to legal counsel of their own choice. Prosecutors haverelied on confessions extracted through torture.

On 14 August, the Myanmar authorities raised petrol prices by two-thirds,doubled diesel prices and raised the cost of compressed natural gasfive-fold. The sudden price increases left many unable to afford bus faresto get to work and to purchase essential commodities such as rice. Astring of peaceful protest rallies against the price increases ensued indifferent parts of the country. Some of the protesters have also calledfor the release of detained political activists and an end to theprotracted political deadlock in the country.

Myanmar authorities have accused the 88 Generation Students Group ofcommitting ?terrorist and subversive acts? and of violating Law 5/96.Amnesty International is concerned that the vague and sweeping provisionsof Law 5/96 criminalize the peaceful expression of political beliefs, andhas previously called for its repeal.

Detained leaders of the 88 Generation Students Group include formerprisoners of conscience Paw U Tun, also known as Min Ko Naing, and Ko KoGyi, who both spent up to 15 years in prison for their part in the major1988 demonstrations. They were released in 2004 and 2005 respectively.They had been among the few remaining leaders of the political oppositionstill at liberty in Myanmar, where the majority of senior oppositionpoliticians are imprisoned or under house arrest on account of theirpeaceful activities.

AI Index:ASA 16/006/2007
31 August 2007

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