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Members of volunteer group arrested, including freelance journalist

(Mizzima News/IFEX) - Several members of Lin Let Kye, a Cyclone Nargis volunteer group, including freelance journalist Pai Soe Oo, were arrested in Dagon Seikkan, Rangoon Division, on the evening of 28 October 2009.

Pai Soe Oo, aged 23, an active member of the group whose name means "Shining Star", was arrested for questioning by local township authorities at his Yuzana housing apartment in Dagon Seikkan township at 9:00 p.m.

"Three persons wearing USDA badges and three local officials came (to the complex) and said that he would be taken to the Home Ministry. When I was ready to go with him, they said they would return tomorrow," a friend of the journalist who is living with him told Mizzima.

Following a search of his home, the officials seized a notebook with the names of Lin Let Kye members.

Pai Soe Oo is a former reporter for "Favorite" and "Pyi Myanmar" weeklies. He is also a blogger. The Lin Let Kye volunteer group was formed in early May 2008 and has over 40 members. Most of them are Rangoon-based reporters and young social activists.

"They compiled a list of Cyclone Nargis victims, who are (mainly) children, donated school textbooks and provided other school expenses, in consultation with the school principals," a source close to Lin Let Kye said.

When asked about the whereabouts of Pai Soe Oo on the morning of 29 October, the gatekeeper of the Home Ministry office said there were no detainees in the Bahan township office.

"We visited the Home Ministry office this morning when (the journalist) did not come back. The police personnel at the gate kept us waiting for over three hours. And then the gatekeeper appeared and told us that there was no detainee in the office. He suggested we inquire about him at the office of the local authority and the local police station," one of the individuals who visited the Home Ministry office said.

Similarly, at least five other members of Lin Let Kye were arrested at their rented Yuzana housing apartment on 26 October. They are Ka Gyi, Zaw Gyi, Lai Ron, Shwe Moe and Aung Myat Kyaw Thu. Their whereabouts remain unknown.

Thant Zin Soe, the Burmese translator-editor of "Foreign Affairs" weekly and also a Lin Let Kye member, was arrested on 26 October. "Foreign Affairs" journal is published by the media group that also publishes "The Voice" and "Living Colour".

Some Lin Let Kye members are on the run as the authorities are conducting combing operations against the group.

Mizzima recalls that the authorities previously arrested famous comedian and film director Thura, aka Zarganar, and sports journalist Zaw Thet Htwe after they had also provided volunteer services for victims of Cyclone Nargis. They were subsequently sentenced to long prison terms.
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