Date: May 24, 2012
Peaceful demonstrators calling for a regular supply of electricity in Pyi Township have faced a brutal crackdown by police in Burma.
AAPP firmly condemns the way police have mistreated protestors during non-violent demonstrations against chronic electricity shortages, when 5 protestors were beaten and arrested by 80 policemen on May 24, 2012.
The 5 protestors are: Ko Zaw Tun, Ko Kyaw Swe; Ko Phyu Phway; Ko Win Hlaing; and Ko Zuu Zuu. They are currently being detained in Pyi prison. Their current status is unclear.
“Even though U Thein Sein is being celebrated for supposed democratic reforms, this violent response to a large, peaceful demonstration shows that the government’s mentality has not changed,” said Bo Kyi, Joint-Secretary of AAPP.
The basic demands of the demonstrators, to have a regular and constant supply of electricity, have not been seriously addressed by the government.
Burma has a long track record of using security authorities to target activists and political opponents. They are often subject to mistreatment and torture, raising serious alarm for all protestors who have recently been detained.
Now that tensions and security surrounding the electricity protests are growing, AAPP is highly concerned about the brutally repressive tactics still being used as a way to threaten and intimidate protestors.
While it is international standard to require authorities to bring charges promptly after an arrest, emergency laws in Burma allow detainees to be held for months, even years, without any clear charges in conditions that often amount to torture.
“All of the detained protestors must be released immediately. The government, instead of violently repressing basic freedoms, needs to start conforming with human rights principles, and it needs to start now,” said Bo Kyi.
Police violence encountered during the protests against power cuts show just how Burma continues to grossly neglect and violate the basic rights to human dignity and freedom of expression. It is clear that peaceful dissent is still not tolerated.
The demonstrations were prompted by announcements that there would be further power cuts in Burma during the summer season. The protests were organized online and while starting in Mandalay, have quickly spread to Rangoon, Pyi, and other townships. Thousands of people have taken to the streets with candle lights, and it is said to be the largest protest since the Saffron Revolution in 2007.