Government Continues to Arrest Political Dissidents

Human Rights organisations have expressed growing alarm over the Burma Government continuing to use draconian legislation to imprison political opponents.

A report by Fortify Rights and the Harvard Law School International Human Rights Clinic found that police used unwarranted and excessive force in cracking down on civilians protesting against development projects in Letpadan on March 10.

Police “brutally punched, kicked, and beat unarmed protesters with batons on their heads, backs, and legs,” the report stated.

More than 100 civilians were arrested during the crackdown.

“The government should hold to account those police officers that used excessive force against the protesters,” Matthew Smith, executive director of Fortify Rights, said in a statement to the media.

The report provided more than 500 photographs and 40 videos as evidence of police brutality.

“This crackdown occurred in broad daylight. Police officers are clearly visible on film and in photos beating unarmed protesters, yet they walk free while the protesters are behind bars,” Mr Smith added.

Meanwhile a report by the Assistance Association of Political Prisoners (AAPP) noted that as of the end of September there are 96 political prisoners with a further 466 political activists awaiting trial.

In September alone six political activists were arrested, and a further eight were sentenced – 15 were released however.

In one case, two garment workers Myo Min Min and Naing Htay Lwin, were sentenced on September 11 to more than two years in prison for their participation in protests over unfair wages and working conditions at their factory. A further 16 protestors are still awaiting trial over the protests.

The arrests come as Burma’s government continues to be criticised for its use of draconian legislation – some of it dating back to the colonial occupation of Burma by the British Empire – to stifle dissent.

Tyler Giannini, Director of the Harvard Law School International Human Rights Clinic, warned Burma’s promises of democratic reform were undermined by the actions of authorities to crack down on political opponents.

“The decision of Myanmar authorities to prosecute protesters rather than those police officers that committed abuses doesn’t bode well for a country on the cusp of national elections,” Mr. Giannini said.

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