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Female activists jailed as UN envoy enters Myanmar

Updated On: Feb 22, 2010

The Military junta in Myanmar has sentenced four female activists to jail terms of two years with hard labour on the day that a UN envoy arrived to inspect human rights progress in the nation, the opposition party said Tuesday. The women were accused of causing public unrest and were sentenced during a closed hearing in a prison court on Monday, the same day that UN special rapporteur Tomas Ojea Quintana entered former capital, Yangon. Defence lawyer Kyaw Hoe, who also represents the opposition party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), said that “They were sentenced… for upsetting public peace and tranquillity”. In October 2009, the women were arrested for donating religious literature to a high-profile monastery located in the eastern Myanmar town, Dagon. In addition to offering religious literature, the women would also conduct prayer services for the imprisoned NLD leader, Aung San Suu Kyi’s release at the Shwedagon pagoda in Yangon. Their arrest followed soon after the rejection of Suu Kyi’s appeal against the extension of her house arrest sentence.

The Special UN envoy arrived on Monday for a five-day visit in Myanmar to evaluate its progress on human rights reform before the scheduled elections later this year. Upon his arrival, Quintana met for talks with NLD lawyers and Myanmar judges. However, it remains to be seen whether he was made aware of the arrests of the activists. The following day, he flew to Rakhine, a state of western Myanmar located near the Bangladeshi border, where campaigners criticized the junta over their treatment of local ethnic groups. The Rohingya are an impoverished Muslim minority living in Rakhine, whom Myanmar refuses to acknowledge. On Tuesday, Amnesty International released a report condemning the military junta’s human rights record and calling on the regime to stop the repression of ethnic minorities in Myanmar. The organization claimed that during an uprising by activists including Rakhine monks in 2008, more than 31 lives perished when it was violently suppressed.  Before going to visit Yangon’s Insein prison where many dissidents are held, Quintana was expected to meet with officials and various members of non-governmental organizations.

On the last day of his visit, Quintana is to meet with several ministers and other government officials, but there have been no plans to meet with leader Than Shwe or Suu Kyi. Suu Kyi has been detained for 14 of the last 20 years after her party, the NLD won the elections in 1990 and was prevented from taking power by the military junta.  

Sources:

AFP, “Myanmar jails women activists as UN envoy visits”, February 16,
2010, http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20100216/wl_asia_afp/myanmarunrights_20100216154239

AP, “Myanmar sentences 4 activists as UN envoy visits”, February 16,
2010, http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5isLUHQ3M1tKZzYfJ4Ap0pAuCvycgD9DT5POO0

TODAY, “4 activists sentenced as UN human rights envoy visits Myanmar”,
February 16, 2010, http://www.todayonline.com/BreakingNews/EDC100216-0000096/4-activists-sentenced-as-UN-human-rights-envoy-visits-Myanmar







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