NLD members beaten and arrested

Jun 19, 2008 (DVB), Activists and National League for Democracy members celebrating the 63rd birthday of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi today were beaten and arrested by pro-government militias.

An NLD member who witnessed the incident said the group was set upon by members of Swan Arr Shin and the Union Solidarity and Development Association.

"An event marking Daw Suu’s 63rd birthday was held in front of the NLD headquarters this morning , activists released 63 birds and wished for her freedom," the NLD member said.

"Just after they finished that, at around 11am, a truck loaded with USDA and Swan Arr Shin members arrived," he said.

"They got out of the truck and started beating up the crowd before arresting about four or five people including Ko Htun Myint, Ko Maung Maung and an unknown monk who was involved in freeing the birds."

An unidentified woman was also among those arrested, as was U Hla Aye of Hlaing Tharyar, who is paralysed.

The NLD member said the activists were beaten and dragged onto the truck.

"We saw the government supporters still beating them up after they were dragged onto the truck," he said.

"It happened right in front of a large number of police and intelligence officers who were watching the event , they were positioned at every corner in the area and at road-blocks on nearby junctions."

At around 1.30 to 2pm, a group of influential township figures came to the NLD headquarters and demanded to speak to senior party officials, the NLD member said.

"They told the NLD officials they could continue with the event with no problems and that they would open up the road blocks and release those who were arrested," he said.

"The road blocks have been cleared but they still haven’t released our people."

NLD information coordinator and Rangoon division secretary Dr Win Naing said he believed the authorities had staged the incident to make it look like a brawl between NLD members and some civilians who did not support them.

"We also sense that the riot police placed at the location were instructed to get involved and to raid the NLD headquarters if the riot happened," Win Naing said.

"This happened under the watchful eyes of government officials in a community hall near our event, and Swan Arr Shin members being able to do such a thing in front of them is so unacceptable," he said.

"The officials were responsible for security issues, not the Swan Arr Shin members. If there was an incident, they were the one who should have taken action , not the Swan Arr Shin members."

Reporting by Naw Say Phaw

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