US citizen arrest a 'political smear campaign'

Sept 24, 2009 (DVB), The recent arrest of a US citizen in Burma on grounds that he was part of a plot by an opposition group to launch terrorist attacks has been dismissed as political smearing by the group's chief.

Nyi Nyi Aung (also known as Kyaw Zaw Lwin), was arrested on 3 September upon arrival at Rangoon International Airport, and is currently being held in Rangoon's Insein prison.

Since his arrest, three others have been detained on related charges of planning "to instigate unrest and launch terrorist attacks", although the state-run New Light of Myanmar newspaper today asserted their connection to a series of bomb blasts that hit Rangoon on the 16 and 17 September, four days after their arrest.

The newspaper claims that Nyi Nyi Aung "had contact with" members of the All Burma Student Democratic Front (ABSDF) and Thailand-based Forum for Democracy in Burma (FDB).

The groups in turn are alleged to be close to "saboteurs of AASYC [All Arakan Students and Youth Congress]".

The general secretary of the FDB, Dr Naing Aung, told DVB today that the connection between Nyi Nyi Aung's arrival in Burma and the Rangoon bomb plot "is a funny joke. They didn't even dare to show how these two things are connected."

The accusations, he said, are "ridiculous, incorrect and twisted as usual. It is a half-truth and tailored it to what they want to tell".

ABSDF leader Than Khe confirmed that Nyi Nyi Aung had been a member of the ABSDF, a group that played a key role in the 1988 Burma uprising, although he had had no contact with the group for some time.

"It is a political smear campaign by the [government]; they are always trying to frame us as a terrorist organization," he said.

It remains unclear why Nyi Nyi Aung visited Burma. Than Khe denied knowledge of why he had returned, and said that "he has his own plans not relating to ABSDF".

His aunt told DVB today that US embassy staff who visited him in prison reported that he had been denied food for eight days and showed signs of being beaten.

Reporting by Joseph Allchin

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