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Activists Condemn Arrest of 6 Prominent Democracy Activists, Including Min Ko Naing, in Burma (click to view PDF)

Leaders In “Serious Risk of Torture” as UN Security Council Weights Action

For Immediate Release

October 2nd, 2006
Contact: Jeremy Woodrum: (202) 223-0300

(Washington, DC) The US Campaign for Burma today condemned the arrest of 6 leading pro-democracy activists in the Southeast Asian country of Burma over the past week, including the country’s second most prominent leader, Min Ko Naing. The arrests took place as the UN Security met to discuss Burma for the first time in history on Friday, September 29th.

“These six leaders have all suffered brutal torture during their previous incarceration by Than Shwe’s regime,” said Aung Din, policy director at US Campaign for Burma. “If the military regime tortures these students similarly to how they were tortured during their last arrest, they are in living hell right now.”

The five of those arrested were student leaders during a major uprising in Burma in 1988, which the military regime responded to by killing up to 10,000 students and activists throughout the country. They spent over 15 years in prison after suffering severe torture and were released in 2004. They now join the world’s only incarcerated Nobel Peace Prize recipient Aung San Suu Kyi as political prisoners in Burma. The most prominent of the six, Min Ko Naing, has won numerous international awards for his peaceful, nonviolent calls for change in Burma including the Civil Courage Prize from the Northcote Parkinson Fund in the United States, the Homo Homini Award from People in Need in the Czech Republic, the John Humphrey Freedom Award from the International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development in Canada, and the Student Peace Prize, widely considered the “junior” Nobel Peace Prize in Norway.

Three of the six were arrested as they prepared to attend the 18th anniversary of the founding of the National League for Democracy, the political party led by Aung San Suu Kyi that won 82% of the seats in parliament in Burma’s last democratic election. The ruling military regime annulled the results of the election, and remains in power to this day.

“We have filed urgent cases with the United Nations Special Rapportuer on Torture Manfred Nowak,” added Aung Din. “We are especially concerned because Burma’s military regime refuses to allow the International Committee of the Red Cross to visit political prisoners in Burma.”

The United Nations has passed 28 consecutive resolutions on Burma at the UN General Assembly and UN Commission on Human Rights, as well as appointed 4 consecutive representatives from the Commission and two envoys from UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. All these UN diplomatic initiatives have failed, because Burma’s military regime refuses to honor non-binding UN resolutions. Last Friday, the UN Security Council — the only body in the UN system, which can pass binding resolutions — discussed the situation in Burma for the first time in history. Undersecretary-General for Political Affairs Ibrahim Gambari briefed the Council, and the United States said it plans to introduce a resolution on Burma in the near future in part because other UN mechanisms are not working.

“While many are familiar with the struggles of Aung San Suu Kyi, the world remains tragically uninformed about the scale of the crisis throughout Burma,” added Aung Din. Over 3,000 ethnic minority villages have been burned, landmined, or dislocated by Than Shwe’s regime over the past decade, including over 200 villages in the past year alone. A recent scientific report led by researchers at Johns Hopkins University shows that health statistics for conflict areas in Burma are now on par with the worst conflict zones in Africa. Burma’s military regime has also recruited up to 70,000 child soldiers, far more than any other country in the world, while refusing to adequately fund HIV/AIDs programs. Over 1 million refugees have fled the country, while 500,000 remain internal refugees in the war zones of eastern Burma. The recent scientific report concludes that without addressing the factors which drive this health crisis, such as the human rights abuses and inability to access healthcare services, there can be no sustainable solution to this chronic emergency.

“Burma may be the worst country crisis in the world that the Security Council has not yet acted to stop,” added Aung Din. “It is time for a responsible resolution in the UN Security Council.” 

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