Friday, January 25, 2008

RFA news ( Burma's Women Activists Speak Out

Burma's Women Activists Speak Out

Student leader Mi Mi was arrested on Oct. 13. She is 35 years old, holds a bachelor’s degree in Zoology, and has two children aged 12 and 16 years. Her husband is also a youth member of the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD). She has been involved in the pro-democracy movement since 1988. She was imprisoned from 1996 to 2003. She is one of the prominent leaders of the 88 generation of student activists. Ma Nilar Thein, who was in Thayawaddy prison with her, is very concerned for her friend:

I am very sad because my friend Mi Mi was arrested like this. I am especially concerned for her because I read the military authorities’ vengeful writings in the newspapers about Mi Mi. She was arrested under these circumstances, so I’m especially concerned for her health and safety.Those who were arrested earlier, even those against whom they had no great vengeance, even just ordinary people, were beaten black and blue. Two girls from South Okkalapa were released, and their faces had been beaten black and blue. We can say that those are people against whom they hold no malice. Since Mi Mi is one of the people they had been targeting, when I heard about her arrest, I only had 50 percent hope for her. The other 50 percent is to consider her dead. It’s because we are living and telling the truth. Now we hear that they are giving injections and electrical shots to the student leaders and interrogating them. Now, when people they are urgently trying to find, including Ko Htay Kyweh, the student leader, and Ma Mi Mi, are arrested like this, I am extremely concerned for their safety. I’m really sad thinking what kind of torture they must be undergoing.
In Thayawaddy Prison, under prison chief U Win Myint, prisoners sentenced for rape were kept next to the women’s building. The prison staff and these prisoners would come and peep at us while we took our baths. We were in prison, defenseless, and without any security. When we reported this to the prison chief, we were reprimanded. Only when the ICRC came, we felt secure because of the rules laid down by the UN, allowed and given by the ICRC. Now, we are concerned for the safety of the women in various prisons because international organizations, such as the ICRC cannot go there. Therefore, we are extremely concerned. No one can defend us from these military dictators who are doing whatever they want.
We, the women of Burma, who are interested in politics and taking part in politics, are facing violence and torture and being killed. From here, I would like to request women’s organizations all over the world to form a investigative commission and to take action for the things going on in our country.

Thet Thet Aung was one of the activists hunted down by authorities for supporting the monk-led demonstrations. She spoke to RFA while on the run, following the arrest of most of her family:
On the 9th, they came back around 2:00 p.m. and searched until 6:00 pm. I was told that they took away my national ID card and that they wanted me. My family was asked to inform me. On the evening of the 9th, they went around and searched houses – my aunts’ houses. On the morning of the 10th, they took away my mother and my mother-in-law.
They blamed me. They said that only when I was captured would they release my mother and my mother-in-law, my parents. They said they wouldn’t release them unless I was captured.
The youngest child is only about one year and two months old. Also, the child is not a healthy one. The child had a blood transfusion at birth. The day after birth, the child’s blood was transfused, and we had to save his/her life. So, he/she needs a lot of care. The education of the children – the health of the children … the two older ones – one is eight and the other one is not quite six. They are only at those ages. I’m really concerned for their health and education. I’m also concerned for my parents and my husband. They are really inhumane.
My parents - my mother is over 50. She has heart disease, high blood pressure, stomach problems and also terrible asthma. She has to be on constant medication for her asthma. She has to take her medicine day and night. My mother-in-law is over 70. I am extremely worried now for my children. I’m really worried and am thinking what I can do for them [breaks down and cries, sobs] – for my parents and my children and my husband. I’m feeling panicked. Just think about it, I’m worried for my children and my parents.
Original reporting by RFA's Burmese service. Produced for the Web in English by Luisetta Mudie. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.

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