Arrest dampens Martyrs’ Day jubilance

The fanfare surrounding the series recent Martyrs’ Day ceremonies in Burma attended by high-profile opposition figureheads has taken on a more sombre tone following the arrest of a National League for Democracy (NLD) member.

Pho Htaung was taken by police on 19 July on his return to Tatkon town in Mandalay division, after a day spent in nearby Meikthila where he marked the 64th anniversary of the assassination of Burmese independence hero, General Aung San.

Police said the arrest was made because Pho Htaung had not informed local authorities that he was travelling outside of Tatkon, his son, Kuma, told DVB.

Although born in Burma, Pho Htaung is a Muslim and is thus denied citizenship by the military-controlled Buddhist government. Police are charging him under the immigration act.

Kuma said that his father was released from jail only four months ago after spending a year in the remote Katha prison in northwest Burma prison. He was sentenced last year on similar charges after travelling to Mandalay to attend an NLD meeting.

His arrest signals the ongoing harassment of NLD members by the Burmese government, which has rejected appeals from the party to reinstate it after it was dissolved earlier this year.

The incident also casts a shadow over the signs of promise that accompanied Martyrs’ Day this year, with the ceremony in Rangoon attended by opposition icon and NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

It was the first time that Suu Kyi, who had been kept under house arrest for much of the past decade before her release in November 2010, attended the event in nine years. She led some 3,000 supporters to the Rangoon site, marking the largest public gathering of Burma’s opposition since the 2007 uprising.

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