Burma, The Maldives and India (Dalits) update
In a recent statement, the Karen National Union (KNU) said: “At present, Burma is in a frightening political, economic and social crisis and the entire people made up of the indigenous nationalities are deep in the sea of misery.”
1. Another political prisoner dies in jail
U Ko Oo, a 64 year-old political prisoner, who had been imprisoned in Thayet prison, died from liver problems on March 25. The former National League for Democracy official was arrested in April 2000 and sentenced to two years in jail. Seven years were later added to his sentence. According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners Burma (AAPPB), although he suffered from serious arthritis and gastritis, he was denied adequate medical treatment. He was only referred to hospital at the last minute. “U Ko oo died from the wilful neglect of the authorities,” the AAPPB said. Since 1988, at least 127 democracy activists have died in detention, seven in 2005 alone. There are at least 1,156 political prisoners in jail in Burma today.
For more information see www.aappb.org
2. Two journalists jailed for photographing new capital
Two journalists, Ko Thar Cho and Ko Moe Htun have been imprisoned for three years for photographing and filming in Burma’s new capital, Pyinmana. They were arrested on March 23 while driving around Pyinmana, taking photos. They were sentenced the next day, according to Reporters Without Borders. They are currently held in Yamaethin district prison.
For more information see www.rsf.org
3. Attacks on Karen continue as hundreds more are displaced
The Free Burma Rangers have issued several reports in recent weeks documenting continuing attacks against Karen people in the Toungoo and Nyaunglebin districts by Burma Army troops of the 66th and 99th Divisions. There are now over 5,000 people displaced in these areas as a result of these attacks, which have intensified in recent weeks. Over 2,000 are displaced in Toungoo District alone, and 3,000 are in hiding in Nyaunglebin district. According to the Free Burma Rangers, the military is attacking “in a one to four battalion sized force and chasing people into the jungle. Homes are then looted, sometimes burned and then landmines are left behind to terrorise the population. Their purpose is to cut the people off from their livelihood, cut all support for the pro-democracy Karen resistance and gain control over the population … It is the feeling of the Karen leaders here that as the hot season progresses, the attacks will increase.”
For more information see www.freeburmarangers.org
4. New report documents impact of dam-building project in eastern Burma
A new report, Dammed by Burma’s Generals, documents the devastating humanitarian impact that a series of proposed dams will have on local people in Karen, Karenni and Shan areas. The report, released by the Karenni Development Research Group, predicts widespread displacement of villages, forced labour, rape and other human rights violations, as well as environmental destruction, if the dams are constructed on the Salween.
For further information see http://www.csw.org.uk/latestnews/article.php?id=487 and see www.salweenwatch.org for a copy of the report.
1. Jennifer Latheef appeal delayed
Amnesty International Prisoner of Conscience Jennifer Latheef was sentenced in October, 2005 to ten years in jail, charged with terrorism, for taking part in a demonstration in September last year. Her sentence has been condemned by the international community. She is an activist, photojournalist and daughter of exiled democracy leader Mohamed Latheef. She was initially imprisoned in Maafushi jail, but is now under house arrest. Her appeal was due to have been heard on April 2, but it has been delayed. The International Commission of Justice has called for her immediate, unconditional release. (Source: Friends of Maldives)
2. Poet hospitalised after torture, as opposition faces increasing violent attacks
A pro-democracy poet and writer, Baikandi Ibrahim Maniku, a regular contributor to Minivan newspaper, has been hospitalised after reportedly being tortured and denied proper food during police detention.
He was arrested at the end of February, accused of theft. When he refused to sign a pre-prepared document confessing the crime, he was badly beaten by six policemen. According to Minivan, “by the time the police had finished, Baikandi said his jeans were soaked with blood from the cuts sustained during the beating.” The police mocked him, saying: “So you think you’re a great poet, do you; a great writer? Do you believe you writing such nonsense will help oust Gayyoom from power? Never in a million years.” He said that the beating left him in “unbearable pain”.
For further details see http://www.minivannews.com/news/news.php?id=1958
Members of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) claimed to have been attacked by street gangs orchestrated by the regime. See http://www.minivannews.com/news/news.php?id=1962
3. Women demonstrate for rights
A protest was held on March 30 by the Maldivian Democratic Party, led by MP Mariya Ahmed Didi, in the capital Male, despite being prohibited by the regime. The demonstration called for greater respect for women’s rights by the police, following recent arrests of female activists who reportedly faced the threat of rape and sexual assault while in custody. Allegedly regime-backed mobs attacked the demonstrators, throwing oil and urine on them. (Source: Friends of Maldives)