One year after the massacre of the monks, the repression continues in Myanmar
Yangon (AsiaNews) - Defying the extensive security measures taken by the Burmese military junta in the capital and in the main cities of the country, the National League for Democracy (NLD) today is celebrating the twentieth anniversary of its foundation. The party formed by Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, instituted on September 27, 1988, is celebrating the release of the journalist Win Tin, who was set free last Tuesday after 20 years in prison, and is remembering the more than 2,000 political prisoners still held in the prisons of Myanmar.
in order to prevent any form of dissent, the military has stepped up security in Yangon, deploying more than 7,000 agents through the streets of the capital. The provision follows the attack in the capital on Thursday, September 25, when a bomb exploded, wounding at least eight people; agents are said to have defused a second bomb, placed near city hall.
The junta has also set up security cordons, barricades, and checkpoints in sensitive areas, like the pagodas of Sula and Shwedagon, the site of last year's revolt. An anonymous police source says there is a plan intended "to strike the representatives of the opposition", whose homes the police have raided, while those who are discovered without documents on the city's streets are arrested.
Also on Thursday, the head of the Burmese police, Khin Yi, issued a warning to the leaders of the NLD, calling upon them to withdraw a document in which they ask for a "review of the leadership in power", which, according to the military junta, is "subversive" in its content. An anonymous source confirms the intolerance of the regime, which could lead to a "new and massive campaign of repression" against pro-democracy activists.
Last year, the ruling dictatorship in Myanmar blocked a series of revolts organized by the Burmese monks, and supported by pro-democracy activists; the first sporadic protests began in August of 2007, because of the unchecked rise in oil prices. Over the following days, more than 100,000 people united in demonstrations, led by the monks, erupting in what has been dubbed the "saffron revolution", violently repressed by security agents. On September 26, a concerted assault by the military left 31 dead - the official estimate, while the real number could be much higher - including a Japanese journalist who was shot to death. Another 74 people are still "officially disappeared", in addition to thousands of arrests among monks and activists.
As a "token" gesture to appease the opposition from part of the international community, in recent days the junta decided to liberate 9,002 detainees, but only seven of these were in prison for thought crimes, and one of them was arrested again the day after the release (NLD representative U Win Htein).
According to a document published by Human Rights Watch, over the past two months 39 dissidents have been arrested, and 21 of them sentenced for political crimes. Still today, the military junta is rejecting funds and subsidies from international NGO's for the victims of hurricane Nargis, fearing that any opening of the borders could create instability and threaten the dictatorial power that they have imposed on the country over the past 20 years. HRW says that the army and police have killed 39 people and have carried out arrests and violence in their crackdown against dissidents.
Finally, there is the question of the fate of the most famous Burmese activist, Nobel peace prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, forced to live for years under house arrest. The "Lady", as she is called, last month repeatedly refused the fresh food that is brought to her on a weekly basis by her fellow party members, leading to fears that she is on a hunger strike that could worsen her already fragile health. In recent days, the Burmese junta decided to loosen the restrictions on her, allowing her to read international magazines in English and to receive letters from family and friends. The wife of the United States president, Laura Bush, has repeatedly spoken out on behalf of her liberation, and recently launched an appeal in which she recalled "the violence against the monks" and called for the "release of Aung San Suu Kyi".