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Burmese Monks, Dissidents Targeted by Junta

By SAW YAN NAING, The Irrawaddy, September 24, 2008

Rangoon, Burma -- Several active youth members of the National League for Democracy (NLD) in Rangoon have gone into hiding in fear of arrest by Burmese security forces while Buddhist monks traveling in Sittwe have reported that they have been targeted for interrogation by the authorities, according to sources.

An NLD youth member in Rangoon told The Irrawaddy on Wednesday that certain other NLD youth members are now too afraid to stay at home and have gone into hiding to avoid the military authorities.

Dissident sources have said that security has been tightened over the last few weeks, especially in the areas that were scenes of last year’s demonstrations, including Rangoon, Pegu, Sittwe Township in Arakan State and Pakokku Township in Magwe Division.      
 
Meanwhile, a Buddhist monk in Sittwe who spoke to The Irrawaddy on condition of anonymity said that monks who travel outside their monasteries face intense questioning by the Burmese authorities. 

“Monks are being stopped and questioned by the authorities,” he said.

Security guards have been deployed in downtown Sittwe and at major places such as pagodas and public areas, said the monk.

The security measures come ahead of the anniversary of the September 26- 27 crackdown on peaceful protesters in Rangoon last year.

Fourteen Burmese activists in Rangoon and Meiktila in Mandalay Division have been arrested since September 9, according to the Thailand-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners-Burma (AAPP). 

Meanwhile, eight Nobel Peace Prize laureates, including Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama, released a joint-statement on Tuesday marking the anniversary of the “Saffron Revolution” by urging the people of Burma to “maintain nonviolence, determination and vigilance—despite the odds.”
 
The Nobel laureates said they were observing a “dark anniversary” because the Burmese regime has resisted change and continues a daily repression of activists, monks and members of the opposition political parties.

In the statement, the Nobel Prize winners also urged the Burmese regime to create a genuine process of national reconciliation which includes all stakeholders and leads toward true democracy, as well as calling for the release of detained pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and all other political prisoners. 

“We will not be silent while Burma suffers … We stand with all our Burmese sisters and brothers. They are ever in our hearts and minds,” the laureates said.  

The Nobel Prize winners also criticized the Burmese authorities for neglecting responsibility in helping people recover from the cyclone which killed more than 130,000 people in May, and for conducting a “sham referendum” to advance their seven-step “road map” agenda despite the disaster.

The laureates also said the Burmese generals and their cronies had “greedily lined their pockets, manipulating currency exchanges with international organizations mandated to bring in disaster relief.”

In London, Burmese dissidents plan to commemorate the first anniversary of the crackdown by holding a demonstration on September 26 calling for the release of all political prisoners in Burma.
 
According to Burma Campaign UK, as Thailand holds the current chair of the Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean), protesters will also hold a demonstration outside the Thai embassy in London calling for Asean to use their influence to push for the release of Burmese political prisoners.



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