[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index ][Thread Index ]

hrwatchuk opress release dec.9

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                   
December 9, 1996

For further information:
Sidney Jones, New York             (212) 971 8400 ex.290; 
Mike Jendrzejczyk, Washington      (202) 371-6592 ex. 113;
Zunetta Liddell, London            (44) 171 713 1995; 

          Human Rights Watch/Asia today sharply criticized the
arrest of at least five hundred people in the last three days
in connection with demonstrations in Rangoon by university and
high school students. Ten members of the opposition party, the
National League for Democracy (NLD), have been arrested, and
scores of protestors are believed to remain in detention
without access to families or lawyers.   The NLD has denied
government accusations of involvement in the demonstrations. 
     Human Rights Watch/Asia is concerned about the safety of
those in detention and by reports that at least two
demonstrators may have been seriously injured on Friday night.
The human rights organization also condemns government
attempts to prevent independent reporting of the
demonstrations and attacks on foreign journalists.
     "With the situation growing increasing critical, we urge
the government to allow the U.N. Special Rapporteur to Burma,
Mr. Rajsoomer Lallah who is currently on mission in Thailand,
to visit the country immediately and conduct an independent
investigation into the arrests and demonstrations," said
Sidney Jones, executive
director of Human Rights Watch/Asia. The ruling State Law and
Order Council (SLORC) has thus far refused to allow Mr. Lallah
access to the country.

The protests, which appear to be a general expression of
widespread anger against the military government, have spread
to Burma's second largest city, Mandalay, where the Institute
of Technology and the Institute of Medicine were closed down
and classes suspended on Sunday after demonstrations.  In
Rangoon, sporadic demonstrations continued on Monday, despite a
significant military presence on all campus sites and the
blockade of all roads leading to the main university.  The
university appears to be closed to classes, and all state high
schools for boys in the city are reported to have been closed. 
Despite a heavy military presence throughout the city, the
protests continued on Monday, December 9, with some 200
students demonstrasting at the Kyimindine campus of Rangoon
University in the afternoon. The demonstration was broken up by
over 100 armed Lone Htein officers. There were no reports of

A government spokesman has blamed the demonstrations on the
National League for Democracy (NLD), the exiled All Burma
Students Democratic Front (ABSDF) and the Communist Party of
Burma.  The spokesman said the government was "trying to flush
out these elements as they come out to the front of unrests." 
On Saturday seven members of the NLD were arrested, apparently
for having been present on Friday evening when over 1,500
people took to the streets and congregated at Hledan "four
star" junction, where University Avenue, Prome Road, Insein
Road and Hledan road meet. Eyewitnesses told Human Rights Watch
that in the early hours of Saturday morning groups of Lone
Htein riot police backed by the army closed off all the exit
roads and charged the crowd. Water cannons were used on a group
of students holding a sit-down demonstration, and stones were
thrown at them by the Lone Htein. Many of the students were
reportedly beaten, and over 300 were taken to the Kyaikkasan
grounds.  As the crowd dispersed, the Lone Htein searched
houses around the junction, arresting students who had taken
shelter in the houses, as well as householders who had watched
the demonstration from their balconies. 

On Saturday a government spokesman was reported as saying that
264 students had been arrested, but that most of them were
released on Saturday afternoon after having their identity
cards checked. On the same day, over one third of the students
from the Rangoon Institute of Technology, who were at the
forefront of the demonstrations, were ordered to leave Rangoon
to return to their home towns.  The move has made it impossible
to verify the numbers released. On Monday morning some RIT
students who refused to leave staged a small protest. 

A Japanese journalist, Shigefumi Takasuka, working for the
daily Yomiuri Shimbun, was badly beaten as he watched the
demonstrations on Friday night.  He was taken for questioning
by military intelligence and finally released on Saturday
morning.  He was the second Yomiuri Shimbun journalist to be
physically assaulted by the Lone Htein within the period of a
week, following the beating of U Myo Thant a Burmese stringer
for the paper, in the early hours of December 3. U Myo Thant is
reported to be out of critical condition now, and has left the

At least three other freelance journalists were deported from
Burma between Saturday morning and Monday. The immigration and
military intelligence officials who questioned the Norwegian,
Dutch and French reporters appear to have been looking for the
person who shot video footage of the Friday night
demonstrations which were shown internationally on CNN
television. All of those deported were on tourist visas, and
government officials said they were deported because they had
worked as journalists while in Burma without permission. Human
Rights Watch/Asia is alarmed by the attempts to prevent
independent coverage of events in Rangoon and elsewhere in the
country and calls on the government to immediately end to all
acts of violence and intimidation against journalists. 

Seven members of the NLD, including four women, were arrested
on Saturday. They are: Ma Cho, Ma Kyi Kyi Win, Ma Khin Mar Yee,
Ma Thida Myint and Ko Nyi Nyi Naing, Ko Tin Aye, and Ko Aung
Aung Htay.  Reliable sources said that at least two of them
were arrested from their homes after they were identified from
the CNN footage as being at the demonstrations.  In addition,
while the two female NLD youth members, Kyi Kyi Aung and San
San Cho, who were arrested on December 3, were released, the
four youths, Ko Zaw Win, Ko Tin Hla and Ko Kyaw Soe are still
in detention.  Neither their families nor their lawyers have
had access to them.  

On Sunday a crowd of around 500 people gathered near the road
blocks on University Avenue leading to Aung San Suu Kyi's
house, in an apparent attempt to hear her speak.  The crowd
waited for three hours, before dispersing peacefully.  Aung San
Suu Kyi was allowed out of her house on Thursday to attend a
wedding and a national day celebration at the home of NLD
Chairman U Tin Oo, but has not been permitted out since then. 

Human Rights Watch/Asia
Human Rights Watch is a nongovernmental organization established in 1978 to
monitor and promote the observance of internationally recognized human
rights in Africa, the Americas, Asia, the Middle East and among the
signatories of the Helsinki accords. Kenneth Roth is the executive
director; Cynthia Brown is the program director.  Robert L. Bernstein is
the chair of the board and Adrian W. DeWind is vice chair.  Its Asia
division was established in 1985 to monitor and promote the observance of
internationally recognized human rights in Asia.  Sidney Jones is the
executive director; Mike Jendrzejczyk is the Washington director;  Andrew
J. Nathan is chair of the advisory committee and Orville Schell is vice