Woman arrested over prayer vigil in Myanmar


AFP

YANGON — A woman has been arrested at Myanmar’s famed Shwedagon pagoda for holding a prayer vigil to urge the military government to free democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, activists said Wednesday.

About 15 people had gathered for their weekly vigil at the golden Shwedagon pagoda on Tuesday, when authorities arrested the leader of the group, Mya Mya San, according to other activists at the service.

“The authorities didn’t give any explanation,” Naw Ohn Hla, who was at the vigil, told AFP.

“They said she was taken to Kyaikkasan detention ground,” she said.

Aung San Suu Kyi, a 62-year-old winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, has been under house arrest for most of the last 18 years.

Her National League for Democracy (NLD) won a landslide victory in elections held in 1990, but the military has never recognized the result.

NLD spokesman Myint Thein said that two other people were arrested at a vigil last week at Shwedagon.

“They were also taken to Kyaikkasan ground and we haven’t got any information since then,” he said.

The latest arrest came amid a rare string of anti-government demonstrations that began on August 19 in protest at the soaring cost of fuel.

Amnesty International said more than 150 people in Myanmar had been detained over the protests against the fuel price hike, which has left some unable to even to get to work.

Many of those held were initially taken to the Kyaikkasan sports ground in an improvised detention camp. Activists said some of the detainees launched a hunger strike on Friday to demand medical treatment for a wounded colleague.

Activists said many of the detainees were transferred on Sunday to police stations around Yangon.

“They were still on hunger strike at that time,” one activist said.

“We haven’t had any information on them since they were moved. Their families are worried because they have not been allowed to visit since the arrests,” the activist said.

The military, which has ruled Myanmar since 1962, deals harshly with any dissent and maintains complete control over the nation’s media.

The latest crackdown on dissent has drawn international criticism, with US President George W. Bush condemning the junta as he arrived in Sydney ahead of an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum meeting.

“It’s inexcusable that we’ve got this kind of tyrannical behavior in Asia,” he said at a news conference.