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Asia-pacific

Burmese students slam 'step back' after wave of arrests

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2012-07-07

Burmese students have expressed disappointment at the government’s crackdown on activists ahead of a political commemoration Saturday, saying repression remained common policy despite much-trumpeted reforms.

AP - More than 20 political activists were detained across Myanmar ahead of a planned commemoration Saturday of the 50th anniversary of a brutal military crackdown on students, fellow activists said.

They said the detentions were proof that the government remains repressive despite the president’s widely praised reforms.

Kyaw Ko Ko, leader of the All Burma Federation of Students Union, said 23 people were arrested in the crackdown, which began Friday night.

Another leading activist, Ko Ko Gyi, said the detainees were expected to be released later Saturday.

“Even when the president has repeatedly said his government is making real reforms, it is very disappointing that there are some in the government who still cannot abandon their old habits,” said Ko Ko Gyi, a leader of a failed 1988 democracy uprising who spent many years in prison.

Those detained included several activists who were freed from prison in January under an amnesty for political prisoners, Kyaw Ko Ko said. The amnesty was part of the liberalization policies initiated by President Thein Sein’s government to promote political reconciliation.

On July, 7, 1962, students in Rangoon, the former name of Yangon, Myanmar’s biggest city, staged a protest against the military regime of Gen. Ne Win, which had taken power four months earlier. Their protest was suppressed by force, and on July 8, the army blew up the student union building at Rangoon University. It is believed that dozens of students were killed in the crackdown.

Ne Win’s 1962 coup was the beginning of almost five decades of repressive military rule. Thein Sein, a former general, came to power with military backing after a 2010 general election. He has initiated reforms, including reconciliation with Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of the country’s pro-democracy movement, that are intended to boost economic development and have been well received by the international community.

Those detained in the latest crackdown included four activists from Yangon, four from Mandalay, four from Shwebo, seven from Myingyan, three from Lashio and one from Sagaing, according to Kyaw Ko Ko.

“Whether they were taken for just a day or an hour, this must be regarded as an arrest,” Min Ko Naing, another 1988 activist, told a crowd of nearly 300 people gathered at the Yangon office of the 88 Generation Students group. “The authorities cannot deny that they are re-arresting the students.”

Min Ko Naing said he was impressed with the courage of the new generation of student activists who organized Saturday’s commemoration events.

The previous military regime often arrested dissidents and jailed them under broad national security laws.

Thein Sein’s government has so far avoided such moves, but still shows wariness of protests that could spark more general unrest. Earlier this year, some organizers of protests against frequent power shortages were taken in for questioning, but released quickly without charge.
 

Date created : 2012-07-07

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