Mon, Oct 15, 2007 - Page 5 News List

Seventy Myanmar forces raid house, seize activists


A total of six activists were rounded up by the Myanmar authorities in a raid on a safehouse over the weekend, Amnesty International said yesterday, as the junta continued to hunt for protest leaders.

The London-based human-rights watchdog had on Saturday reported that four political dissidents including two prominent leaders of recent anti-junta rallies had been arrested in Yangon.

New information confirmed that in fact six people were arrested in a raid early on Saturday by security forces on a house in Myanmar's commercial hub, an Amnesty spokesperson in Bangkok said.

"There is no information on where they are being detained," the group said in a statement. "Amnesty International is seriously concerned for the safety of all six people, who are at grave risk of torture and ill treatment."

The statement quoted eye-witnesses, who said that about 70 members of the security forces had raided a residence where the activists were hiding.

Htay Kywe and Mi Mi, who led some of the first protests against the military regime in mid-August, were held along with Aung Thu, a 43-year-old activist.

The other three people have not yet been identified, the spokesman said, but two were believed to be members of prominent activist group the 88 Generation Students, while the other person is thought to be the home owner.

Htay Kywe and Mi Mi helped lead August's protests, which were sparked by an overnight jump in fuel prices in Myanmar that left many unable to afford even to travel to work.

They went into hiding after 13 pro-democracy leaders were arrested on Aug. 21. They all belong to the 88 Generation Students, made up of veteran student leaders who spearheaded the 1988 democracy uprising.

Myanmar's military rulers cracked down on the recent protests late last month after Buddhist monks joined the movement, bringing popular support to the campaign and drawing up to 100,000 people into the streets.

At least 13 people were killed and some 2,000 people arrested in the government sweep, and about 1,000 of them are still in custody.

Concern has been growing for the political prisoners after a monitoring group based in Thailand reported last week that an activist died when tortured during interrogation.

Htay Kywe is reportedly in poor health, Amnesty said.

Meanwhile, Myanmar's military rulers have relaxed a curfew in the main city Yangon, reducing it to four hours a night as security remained light on the streets of the commercial hub, residents said yesterday.

Loudspeakers mounted on trucks drove through the city late on Saturday telling people that the curfew would now run from 11pm to 3am, down from the 10pm till 4am restrictions in place up until now.

The easing of the curfew, along with a lower security presence on the streets of Yangon, could imply that the junta feels it has finally quashed the largest protests against its rule in nearly 20 years.

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