Authorities demand data on opposition party

Dec 30, 2009 (DVB), Opposition party members in Burma are being forced to divulge personal details about their families and jobs to intelligence officers, reportedly on instruction from senior government.

Lists of National League for Democracy (NLD) members in Mandalay division, Kachin state and Bago division have been drawn up, while birth dates of divisional members of Mandalay's Chanmyayttharzan township were collected recently, NLD organizing member Myo Naing said.

"They didn't come openly; local authorities came to ask our dates of birth," he said. "They said they did it under order of senior authorities. I saw the list of the names of four to five NLD members in our ward."

Another NLD member in Mandalay division, Tun Tun, said that it was not clear why surveillance was being stepped up.

"They are mainly collecting [data] in rural areas. In urban areas, they collect them in satellite towns," he said. "When I asked them they said they do it under instruction from the top."

In Kachin state's Mohnyin, NLD members are being photographed and told to answer questionnaires. They are also told to list their siblings, their addresses and jobs.

At the same time, NLD leaders in Mandalay sent a directive to colleagues not to reveal data of party members, Mandalay Northwest township MP-elect Tin Aung Aung said.

Khin Maung Swe, from the NLD's information wing, said that authorities have no right to collect data.

"It is not in accordance with the law for non-NLD party members to collect details of party members," he said. "If they did, we will investigate it and carry out appropriate action."

The Burmese government is preparing to hold elections next year, although the NLD is yet to announce whether it will participate.

Critics of the government say that the 2008 constitution will entrench military rule in the country, while detained NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi is barred from running for office.

Reporting by Khin Hnin Htet

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