Monday, 6 December 2010

Imprisoned Student Leader Warns of Second Depayin

Saturday, December 4, 2010


Htay Kywe, one of the imprisoned leaders of the 88 Generation Students group, said he is worried that Aung San Suu Kyi could face another attack like the one that killed many of her supporters in May 2003, according to his brother-in-law, Phyo Min Thein.

Phyo Min Thein, who is also a prominent political activist and former member of the Union Democratic Party, told The Irrawaddy on Friday that Htay Kywe spoke of his concerns during a 45-minute family visit at Buthitaung Prison in Arakan State on Dec. 2.

In this image taken from TV from footage issued on Saturday Oct. 13, 2007 by the Democratic Voice of Burma, based in Norway, shows Htay Kywe seen in Rangoon. (Photo: AP)

He said that Htay Kywe, who is currently serving a 65-year sentence for his political activities, asked him to convey his concerns to Suu Kyi, who was released from house arrest on Nov. 13.

“He said he is worried that she could face another situation similar to the one at Depayin and asked me to warn her about that,” Phyo Min Thein said.

On May 30, 2003, around 5,000 armed thugs recruited by the pro-junta Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA) ambushed Suu Kyi’s convoy in Depayin, Sagaing Division, killing an estimated 100 people.

Htay Kywe also expressed his continuing support for Suu Kyi as the leader of Burma's pro-democracy movement.

“He said that all political forces need to cooperate under the leadership of Aung San Suu Kyi to achieve national reconciliation,” said Phyo Min Thein, adding that they also discussed the lack of progress in reaching this goal.

According to Phyo Min Thein, Htay Kywe appeared to be thinner than usual and was suffering from a stomach ailment. He added that members of Burma's Special Branch police force monitored them throughout the visit.

Concerning prison conditions, Htay Kywe said that he is able to write and draw, but wants the authorities to move political prisoners serving their sentences in remote areas closer to their families.

The Burmese regime often forces its imprisoned opponents to serve long sentences in relatively inaccessible parts of the country, making it difficult for them to receive regular family visits.

In a recent interview with United Press International, Suu Kyi described conditions in Burma's prisons as “brutal.”

During another visit in August, Htay Kywe told family members that Burma's Nov. 7 election would be meaningless without the participation of Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy and called on the army, political forces, pro-democracy parties and ethnic groups to work together toward an “all-inclusive” solution to the country's political problems.

Htay Kywe was first arrested in 1991 and sentenced to 15 years in prison for violating Burma's draconian security laws. Initially held in Rangoon’s notorious Insein Prison, he was transferred to Tharrawaddy Prison in Pegu Division in 1995.

He was released in July 2001, but was subsequently arrested on several occasions under Section 10 A of the 1975 State Protection Law, which allows the military authorities the right to detain suspects arbitrarily.

In 2005, Htay Kywe co-founded the 88 Generation Students group along with other prominent leaders of the nationwide pro-democracy uprising of August 1988, including Min Ko Naing, Ko Ko Gyi, Min Zeya and Pyone Cho.

From 2005 to 2007, the group engaged in nonviolent activities, including group visits to political prisoners’ homes and holding Buddhist ceremonies at Shwedagon Pagoda in Rangoon to commemorate political prisoners still behind bars.

On Nov. 11, 2007, Htay Kywe and other members of the 88 Generation group were given 65-year prison sentences for their alleged involvement in massive monk-led pro-democracy protests in September of that year.

Most of the imprisoned 88 Generation leaders are serving their sentences in remote areas, including Buthitaung Prison in Arakan State, Kengtung Prison in Shan State, Loikaw Prison in Karenni State, Kawthaung Prison in Tenasserim Division, Kalaymyo Prison in Sagaing Division, and Myitkyina and Putao prisons in Kachin State.

Buthitaung Prison is notorious for its harsh treatment of political prisoners and its severely cold weather.

According to the Thailand-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, there are 2,203 political prisoners in prisons across Burma.

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