Targeting the National League for Democracy
It's déjà vu all over again. Wounds suffered from a vicious campaign launched against it three years ago by the ruling generals have barely healed, yet the National League for Democracy (NLD) has become the target of the military once again. Around 2000, rallies were held nationwide to denounce the NLD and its members were forced out of the party through official harassment, persecution, and blatantly falsified legal charges.
When Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was released from house arrest in 2001, things looked good, at least for a while. With NLD leaders touring all over the country and new young members joining the party, the NLD regained its strength. The Tabayin Massacre on 30 May disrupted that rapprochement as scores of NLD members and supporters became casualties in that premeditated attack.
The generals who from time to time have vowed to eliminate the NLD are in the destructive mood again today. After detaining all leading NLD members and closing down NLD Offices, the generals have steadily and systematically been increasing pressure on the NLD rank and file. Local authorities and the military intelligence are asking party members to resign voluntarily from the NLD. Regional peace and development councils have even instructed the local police to frame civil or criminal charges against the "stubborn" ones and to jail them.
Making Tenasserim 'NLD Free'
On 12 September, Major General Ohn Myint, newly appointed chairman of the Tenasserim Division Peace and Development Council (PDC) and commander of the Coastal Military Command, was heard telling a meeting of local PDC executives, district/township police commanders, and officials in charge of township General Administrative Departments that his Division must be turned into a "model region rid of all political parties". He said, "Thanks to the outstanding performances of the previous chairmen of this division's Peace and Development Council, the Defense Ministry/Army has given recognition and praised Tenasserim Division as the region where the NLD is the weakest. Under my command, efforts must continue until no NLD member or organizer remains and until the Tenasserim Division is transformed into a model region rid of all political parties. Pressure must therefore continue in every village, ward, and township that you are in charge of so that the remaining NLD members, organizers, and elected representatives will leave that party. Those who submit their resignations must be found jobs with Pyithu Swan Ah Shin Aphwe ('People's Power Association') and regional peace and development council offices. Efforts must also be stepped up against those who remain stubborn so that they become criminally implicated or legally charged under a police case."
This is the trend that is occurring all over the country today. Members of the NLD are increasingly facing legal action. U Aung Soe Myint, elected NLD representative of Toungoo was imprisoned for seven years with hard labor on September 19 for a motorcycle accident even though the other party was at fault.
Victimizing Witnesses to Tabayin Incident
In addition, NLD members who had
accompanied Daw Aung San Suu Kyi during her tour of
Ko Nyunt Lwin joins many other
political prisoners connected to Tabayin incident who -are now being used as
porters for the military. Seventy six
political prisoners from Shwe Bo prison, including Pho Toat, 23 years old,
Prisoner No. C 7616 (Father – U Tun Naing) were sent to a military base in
Thanbyuzayat on September 25. These political prisoners will be used as porters
for frontier forces in Kya-in-Seikkyi and
In addition to imprisoning NLD
members, local authorities have been targeting families of NLD members
depriving them of livelihood and causing difficulties for them in their daily
life. Ma Khin Htay, secretary of
In Magwe Division, NLD Youth Wing
members are subjected to threats and harassment by the local authorities and
the military intelligence and their homes are frequently checked by authorities
to see if any unregistered guests are there. On August 28, homes of Myo Thin
and Aye Min Soe (
The ongoing crackdown against NLD is similar to the vindictive campaign launched against the NLD circa 2000. At the time, Minister of Home Affairs Col. Tin Hlaing and Commander of Police Forces Col. Soe Win declared that they were out to eliminate the NLD. The only difference is that the present anti-NLD drive is being launched discretely and out of sight of the international community.
Courage under Military Crackdown
The intensification of pressure from the military has, so far, not dampened the enthusiasm of NLD members and other democracy activists. Even though the entire Central Executive Committee has either been detained or left incommunicado by the military, and the NLD leadership had not been able to officially respond to the "roadmap" proposed by the SPDC Prime Minister Gen Khin Nyunt, elected NLD representatives and state/divisional and township-level NLD officials as well as other democratic leaders have been displaying courage and boldly rejecting the plan of the generals. Their defiant interviews with news agencies, particularly with Burmese language broadcasts, which are frequently being heard on radio, suggest that aspiration for democracy and the undercurrent of the democracy movement remain as strong as ever. Several mass activities cited below confirm this:
On 1 September, a group of senior Political Veterans sent a letter to Senior General Than Shwe, expressing their concern about the news of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi staging a hunger strike and called for the start of a political dialogue. The veterans again sent a letter on 7 September protesting the SPDC "roadmap". They called for the immediate release of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi; the beginning of a tripartite dialogue; the reopening of NLD offices; and the resumption of regular relationship with the NLD.
On 7 September, despite the restrictions imposed, about 100 NLD members convened a prayer meeting to mark the first 100 days after the Tabayin (Depayin) Massacre and in memory of those who were killed and maimed by the military and its affiliated thugs. The meeting was held at the famous Shwedagon Pagoda.
On the 15th anniversary of the coup by the current regime, 252 NLD Youth Wing members sent a petition letter to the UN Security Council through the UN Secretary-General asking for action to implement the results of 1990 general elections; to release Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and other political prisoners; end human rights violations and the lawless situation in Burma; and help overcome the socioeconomic crisis that the Burmese people are facing.
Members of the State and Divisional NLD Offices issued statements which demanded the end of military rule; the release of all political prisoners; the reopening of all NLD offices; to have an independent inquiry into the Tabayin (Depayin) Massacre on May 30 and take appropriate legal action against the perpetrators; to stop the acts of banditry and rapes; and asked the military to abide by their own Order 1/90.
NLD leaders and Youth Wing
members from various states, divisions, and townships converged on
Again in the last week of
September, 200 NLD youths sent a letter to the Chairman of ASEAN, calling for
action to pressure the military region. On
Political prisoners and other prisoners in Bassein (Pathein) prison who are serving long prison terms staged a hunger strike starting from 6 September, demanding the release of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and all other political prisoners. On 8 September, riot police raided the prison and killed ten prisoners. A similar incident also occurred in Myaungmya prison.
In the last week of September, seven students [Sit Ko Naing, Han Win Aung, Kyaw Kyaw, Kyaw Soe Moe, Win Ko, Zaw Zaw Aung, Myint Myint Soe (Female Student)] were arrested in the last week of September for distributing pamphlets arguing against the SPDC’s proposed political roadmap. The pamphlet said that the "roadmap" announced by Prime Minister General Khin Nyunt did not represent the needs of the country. It called on people to reject the roadmap because it aimed only to enhance military rule and warned those supporting it would be labeled "national betrayers."
On 11 October, about 50 NLD
youths went to the residence of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in
USDA Preparing for Elections
Since the end of September, the military-headed Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA) Headquarters has issued a directive to all local USDA units to abide by the following order.
All USDA executives are to (1) Support the SPDC's roadmap; (2) Explain the seven-points of the roadmap to USDA members; (3) Start preparing for the next elections now; (4) Be guided by the speeches of Senior General Than Shwe, SPDC members, the prime minister, and ministers since the USDA is a national political organization that the state can rely on; (5) Screen, select, and nominate leading citizens for the upcoming elections, (6) Step up organizational work while the activities of "the other side" are being stalled; and (7) Express support for the prime minister's roadmap toward a "disciplined democratic nation" as being practical and in harmony with the life of the people.
Mobilizing the Armed Forces and USDA
During 4-28 September, declared
as "the state of emergency" by the SPDC, all Armed Forces units, the
Swan Ah Shin units (members of the police, fire services, Red Cross, etc) were
placed on alert, and basic military training for the People's Militias (Second
Phase), which included civil servants, were organized throughout the country.
Government service personnel were told "to cultivate the patriotic spirit
and to join with the Armed Forces in preparing for nationwide guerilla warfare
Although the aim of the
mobilization was to instill anti-American sentiments among the Burmese, the
reaction of the people as Burma-based
Ross Dunkley, the Australian chief executive officer and managing editor of the
regime-censored Myanmar Times, said was quite the reverse. During a September conference on
"Prospects for Democracy in
Military Offensive in
The SPDC Army began launching a major offensive on the stronghold of the Karen National Union's 7th Brigade in Pa-an District on 5 August. Using artillery, heavy weapons, machine-guns, rocket-propelled grenades and other weapons, SPDC troops assaulted the outgunned Karen fighters resulting in intense battles and skirmishes inside Myawadi Township close to Thailand's Mae Ramart and Tha Song Yang Districts, Tak Province. The operation is described as the second biggest after the 1995 battle of Manerplaw.
Burmese troops from 11 regiments, mostly from Hmawbi-based Military Operations Command No 4, backed by Infantry Regiment 907 and Democratic Karen Buddhist Army Brigade 999, finally forced six KNU battalions to abandon the base on 16 October.
But as Lt Col Phaw Doh, commander of KNU's 101st Special Battalion, said to the Democratic Voice of Burma, "Our force is weaker than theirs, so we avoided a head-on confrontation. No, we were not defeated. To be defeated in a battle means we would be left in disarray. Even though we moved our 7th Brigade headquarters out, the enemy has not come in to take over the base”.
During this campaign, SPDC troops brought over 1,000 porters, mainly prisoners forcefully recruited from Tharawaddy and Ma-ubin prisons, about 1,000 Karen families from Loo Baw and Thee Wa Po Village Tracts had to abandon their homes and flee to the border while 11 porters escaped and surrendered to the Karen National Union.
News Sources: News Commentary of the Political