Peaceful demonstrations, motivated at first by the rise in the prices of fuel and basic foodstuffs, were initiated by Buddhist monks in August. These demonstrations gradually spread and the demonstrators began to demand not only a drop in prices but also the release of political prisoners and the establishment of a national reconciliation process.
Violently repressed, the protest movement ended at the beginning of October. Marching crowds were cleared from the streets of Yangon, the former capital, and the country’s other towns, monasteries were "cleansed" of their unwanted occupants and several hundred people, including many monks, journalists, pro-democracy activists and students were arrested and imprisoned.
The secret services are reportedly searching for relatives and even neighbours of those suspected of having participated in the demonstrations. According to Burmese journalists, photographs taken at the time of the protests are being circulated in police stations and among police informers, in order to identify whom to arrest. Reporters no longer have access to the information they need to do their jobs ; the internet works only intermittently now and human rights violations are carried out secretly in prisons or unofficial detention centres, where torture and abuse are known to be inflicted on a regular basis.
One after another, all known members of the 88 Generation Student Group, a pro-democracy group which was violently suppressed by the military junta in 1988, were arrested and detained incommunicado. We have every reason to fear for their safety and even their lives.
On the night of 21 August, 13 of these prominent activists were arrested as part of a large-scale police operation. The others went into hiding. On 10 October, Hla Myo Naung was arrested in an eye clinic where he had had to go for the treatment of a ruptured cornea. He risks losing an eye if he is not operated on soon.
Min Ze Ya suffers from a serious hypertension condition and other illnesses resulting from the torture to which he was subjected during a previous detention. He is not receiving the medical attention he needs.
Htay Kywe, Mie Mie and Aung Thu were the last known members of the 88 Generation Student Group who had managed to escape the manhunt for them. They were arrested at dawn on 13 October in Yangon when 70 security service agents attacked the house in which they were hiding. Htay Kywe was one of the main leaders of the 1998 national protest movement against the military regime. He and all the other members of the student group have already been imprisoned for long periods of time on account of their activities in support of human rights and democracy, although these activities were peaceful. Htay Kywe is reportedly in very bad health. All are prisoners of conscience and their incarceration is entirely illegal.
Given the disruption of postal services to Myanmar, we will send our letters to the embassy in Brussels, which will forward them to the relevant authorities.