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Burma: Don't be taken in by the unprincipled junta

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Burma's junta sentenced four women activists to two years imprisonment with hard labor on the same day U.N. special envoy Tomas Ojea Quintana arrived for a five-day visit to evaluate progress on human rights in the country.

The four women were arrested on 3rd October 2009, after being accused of offering Buddhist monks alms that included religious literature, said Nyan Win, spokesman for the opposition National League for Democracy headed by detained Nobel Peace prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi. "When passing the sentence, the court could not provide strong evidence against them as there is no (reliable) witness," their lawyer Kyaw Ho said. The women used to hold prayer services at Rangoon's Shwedagon pagoda for release of Suu Kyi.

The current visit of U.N. envoy Tomas Ojea Quintana started a day after the regime jailed an American human rights activist Kyaw Zaw Lwin, to three years in prison on fraud and forgery charges, despite demands from the United States for his release. This will be the envoy's third visit to the country after a previous mission last year was postponed.

The U.N. envoy's visit comes two days after pro-democracy leader Tin Oo was released following seven years in prison. Tin Oo, vice-president of the NLD was released from prison on 13 February 2010, having been in prison since 30 May 2003. As he visited NLD headquarters on 15 Feb, he said he was optimistic that "things can be resolved" through Mr Quintana's visit.

Former political prisoner who spent 19 years in junta's jail and NLD's central executive committee member Win Tin called on Mr Quintana to "be decisive and perform his duties in the strictest manner without falling prey to the lies of the government".

Present sorrowful affairs in Burma confirm that the military junta is determinedly marching along its anti-democracy course. The junta continues to detain and incarcerate approximately 2,200 political prisoners, including Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been confined to her residence for 14 of the last 20 years.


For instance, on 30 December 2009, 15 political promoters from three townships in Mandalay Division were given various prison sentences ranging from 2 years to 71 years by a court sitting inside the prison. The special branch of the police arrested the political activists from Myingyan, Nyaung Oo and Kyauk Padaung townships last September and October without attributing any reasons, held them incommunicado, and did not let them to meet their family members during their incarceration period. They have been given thoughtless imprisonments by an arbitrary court in jail without having a lawyer on 6 January.

Besides, a military-controlled township court in Burma has handed down a 20-year jail term to a freelance reporter Hla Hla Win, a young video journalist who worked with the Burma exile broadcaster "Democratic Voice of Burma" based in Norway, as the ruling junta continues its crackdown on the dissent. She was arrested in September after taking a video interview at a Buddhist monastery in Pakokku, a town in Magwe Division, the Paris-based Reporters Sans Frontieres and the Burma Media Association said in a joint statement. For that she was given a seven-year prison sentence in October 2009. Burma ranks alongside nine other countries in the "worst of the worst" category in Freedom House's "Freedom in the World 2010' report, which includes Libya, Tibet, China, Eritrea, North Korea and Equatorial Guinea.

The 47-year-old musician Win Maw was convicted for "sending false news abroad", even though it wasn't false, and there wasn't any evidence against him to match up with the elements of the charge.

On November 11, 2008, the Mingalar Taungnyunt Township Court sentenced, a leading Burmese musician Win Maw to 17 years in prison for sending news reports and video footage to the Norway-based Democratic Voice of Burma radio station during the protests in August and September 2007. Win Maw was arrested in a Rangoon teashop on November 27, 2007 and charged under article 5 (j) of the penal code with "threatening national security". He was held in the notorious Insein prison during trial, and was transferred to a remote Katha prison, following this year's trial. He won the 2009 Kenji Nagai Memorial Award for his commitment as a freelance journalist in Burma.

Another Reporter of the Norway-based opposition radio station Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB), Ngwe Soe Lin was sentenced to 13 years' imprisonment on 28 January 2010 by the Rangoon Western District Court sitting inside Insein prison. Sources said Ngwe Soe Lin, 28, who lives in Rangoon's South Dagon Township, was charged under section 33(a) of the Electronic Act and section 13(1) of the Immigration Emergency Provisions Act, receiving terms of 10 and 3 years imprisonment respectively.

Ngwe Soe Lin had been recently honored with the Rory Peck Award for his work in documenting orphan victims of Cyclone Nargis, which struck Burma in the first week of May 2008.

Moreover, two officials have been sentenced to death by a court in Burma for leaking information, official sources say, in a case reportedly involving secret ties between the ruling junta and North Korea. The men were arrested after details and photos about a trip to Pyongyang by the Burma regime's third-in-command, General Shwe Mann, were leaked to exiled media last year, the website of Thailand-based Irrawaddy News reported.

"Two officials received death sentence and another one was jailed for 15 years for leaking information. They were sentenced at the special court in Insein Prison on Thursday," a source said. The two men sentenced to death were Win Naing Kyaw and Thura Kyaw, while the imprisoned third person was revealed just as Pyan Sein, with no further details of the case. Win Naing Kyaw is a former military officer and Thura Kyaw and Pyan Sein worked at the ministry of foreign affairs, Irrawaddy said.

Many leaders of the '88 Generation Students, who led a pro-democracy movement in 1988, remain imprisoned with sentences up to 65 years. Ethnic Shan political leader Hkun Htun Oo and prominent comedian Zarganar are still in prison despite their medical conditions.

Su Su Nway, a member of the National League for Democracy, has been in custody in the notorious Insein Jail since November 2007, following a peaceful demonstration. She received the 2006 Humphrey Freedom Award from the Canada-based group Rights and Democracy for her human rights activities. She was arrested in 2005 and 2007.

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Zin Linn was born on February 9, 1946 in a small town in Mandalay Division. He began writing poems in 1960 and received a B.A (Philosophy) in 1976. He became an activist in the High School Union after the students' massacre on 7th July 1962. He (more...)
 
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