Leaders of the 88 Generation Peace and Open Society (88GPOS) have denounced the government’s justification for using civilian volunteers in last week’s crackdown on students and activists in front of City Hall, during a meeting between the civil society group leaders and Rangoon Division government officials on Sunday.
According to an announcement on the 88GPOS Facebook page, leading members Ko Ko Gyi, Mya Aye, Pyone Cho, Tun Myint Aung, Zaw Min and Mee Mee met with officials, including regional Chief Minister Myint Swe, at local government offices at 8am. The minister explained that the use of civilian vigilantes by police during riots or incidents of crowd control is justified under articles 127 and 128 of the Code of Criminal Procedures.
88GPOS said its representatives’ response was to note that these procedures were adopted during colonial times and it was inappropriate to employ them nowadays. The group also voiced concern about the violation of several female activists’ dignity by the civilian volunteers – widely seen as hired thugs of the Swan Arr Shin movement – during the Rangoon violence on 5 March.
When phoned by DVB on Sunday, the group said it had no further comment to make.
In Letpadan, several students and activists who have been taking part in a sit-in for more than a week have been taken ill in the sweltering hot conditions, according to a spokesperson for the All Burma Federation of Student Unions (ABFSU).
Letpadan, one hundred miles north of Rangoon in Pegu [Bago] Division, has been the centre of a student sit-in, first at a Buddhist monastery and later last week at the Kyundaw Street intersection. Students and monks also staged a symbolic hunger strike. Police intervened forcibly on Friday and detained five protestors.
Min Thwe Thit, an ABFSU central committee member, told DVB that some of the 200 protestors at the scene are suffering from dehydration and exhaustion.
Daytime temperatures have been consistently reaching 38ºC- 40 ºC in the past few days, and conditions are dusty and dry.
“It is extremely hot here during the daytime and everyone has been sitting on asphalt in the stifling heat,” he said. “Then it gets quite cold and chilly at night. About ten students have fallen ill and some of the female demonstrators were administered drips.”
Two ambulances from the charity group Free Funeral Service Society and some local doctors have been on hand to provide medical assistance, he said.
On Sunday, another “column” of students from Shan and Karenni states arrived in Letpadan in vehicles to join the rally. One of the new arrivals, Saw Yan Naing, said they initially planned to march there by foot but had to take rides to avoid being blocked by authorities along the way.
DVB has learnt that the police units monitoring the Letpadan sit-in were rotated at the weekend, while security was beefed up around the town.
Also on Sunday, the band Pan Ye Lan, led by renowned 70s’ rock musician Ye Lwin, performed for the protestors and their supporters in Letpadan.
The group, known for campaigning for refugees’ rights and other causes, played hits including Arr Lone Go Kyaw Pyhat Ya Mal [We Must Overcome Everything].