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NLD chair charged for holding forced labour report

Feb 27, 2008 (DVB), The National League for Democracy chairperson in San Chaung township, Rangoon division, has been charged with threatening national stability for holding information on forced labour.

NLD chairperson U Thet Wei was arrested on 19 February after authorities tried to seize a memory stick from him containing information about the Burmese' government's forced labour practices to be reported to the International Labour Organisation.

Thet Wei was previously arrested on 9 January at a court hearing at Kyauktada township court for solo protestor U Ohn Than.

In an interview with DVB on 13 February, Thet Wei said he had asked police sergeant Hla Phone during the hearing if he could talk to Ohn Than.

"During our talk, U Ohn Than handed me a letter he had written, and I thought it was just a letter to his family and accepted it," Thet Wei said.

"But Hla Phone saw it and tried to grab it from me, and that's when the problems started."

Thet Wei said that Hla Phone then asked him to go to the police station.

"So I handed my wallet, identity card and a memory stick containing documents about the ILO to U Ohn Than's daughter," Thet Wei said.

"But Hla Phone tried to seize the memory stick, so I told them it only contained documents about the ILO that have nothing to do with him."

When Thet Wei tried to stop his memory stick being taken and asked to see a warrant, he was charged with harassing an officer on duty and intimidation.

Thet Wei went to court on 19 February to face these charges, but was arrested again during this court hearing.

The court rejected one of the original charges, but added additional charges relating to dissemination of sensitive material that could undermine national stability, according to his wife, Daw Than Than.

"The new charges are all about the memory stick," Daw Than Than said.

"He was supposed to drop it in at the ILO after the court hearing but he never made it there and they took it from him."

Thet Wei, a 50-year-old former political prisoner, is now being held in Pabedan police station.

He is due to appear in court on 4 March to hear the latest charges against him.

The SPDC agreed with the ILO in February 2007 that incidences of forced labour can be freely reported to the ILO and that those who report these cases should not face harassment or arrest.

Reporting by Aye Nai

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