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Editors interrogated following public rally; five university students arrested for putting up poster

(Mizzima/IFEX) - The following is a statement from Mizzima News, an interim member of IFEX:

Editors interrogated following public rally

Editors from a leading journal in Rangoon were called in for interrogation by police on the evening of 20 August 2007, one day after a rare public protest over sharp fuel price rises in Burma.

While those concerned refused to speak on record, Mizzima confirmed with other sources that the editors were indeed questioned by the police that evening. Male editors were called into police headquarters for interrogation, while female editors were interrogated in their homes. The sources alleged the interrogations were at the behest of the Military Affairs Security, which had accused the editors of favouring the National League for Democracy (NLD), the political party that was denied its right to govern despite winning a landslide victory in the 1990 polls. The military has been ruling Burma since 1962.

The interrogation of the editors followed a 500-strong public rally on 19 August in Rangoon in protest of a sudden rise in fuel prices, which has paralysed the public transport system and drastically affected commodity prices.

In a rare show of mass defiance against the totalitarian regime, Burmese continued to protest in the following days, leading to a wave of arrests on 22 August of leaders of the 88 Generation Students - the group of students who led the 1988 pro-democracy uprising - and other student and civil advocacy groups.

Among those from the 88 Generation Students arrested were Min Ko Naing, Ko Ko Gyi, Ko Mya Aye, Ko Pyone Cho, Ko Jimmy and Ko Yin Htun. A source in the Home Ministry said they have been detained in Kyaikkasan, a stadium-turned-detention centre. The exact number of those arrested could not be confirmed and it is feared that those who could not be contacted have been detained.

Five university students, Kyaw Ko Ko, Nyan Oo, Yar Zar Mon, Nyan Linn and Nyi Linn Oo, were arrested at 10:00 a.m. (local time) on 22 August while they were putting up a poster demanding reductions in the prices of fuel and basic commodities. Members of the Union Solidarity Development Association (USDA), a "non-governmental organisation" whose patron is junta head Senior General Than Shwe, and plain-clothed police officials arrested them.

The junta has iron-fist control over all media and vigorously censors dissent. Protesters risk arrest and torture.

The Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA) has called on the international community to closely monitor the tension in Rangoon, as the crackdown on activists could easily spill over to encompass the media - as perhaps already evidenced by the reported interrogation of editors on 19 August - and, in general, lead to a worsening of what is already one of the worst environments for free expression and other human rights.

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