INDEPENDENT NEWS

Cablegate: Burmese Activist's Return to the Gulag?

Published: Thu 23 Sep 2004 10:21 AM
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
UNCLAS RANGOON 001257
SIPDIS
SENSITIVE
STATE FOR EAP/BCLTV, DRL
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PHUM PGOV BM
SUBJECT: BURMESE ACTIVIST'S RETURN TO THE GULAG?
1. (SBU) Summary: On September 21, GOB authorities detained a
58-year old Burmese political activist for demonstrating in
front of UNDP offices in Rangoon. U Ohne Thant, who has
served over 13 years in the Burmese political gulag, was
carrying a placard calling for the United Nations to help
implement the elections of 1990. One of several "solo"
demonstrators rounded up this year, U Ohne Thant apparently
linked his protest to a concurrent "long march for freedom"
that led Burmese dissidents from outside Albany to UN
headquarters in New York. End Summary
2. (SBU) On September 21, Burmese Military Intelligence (MI)
agents arrested a lone Burmese demonstrator, U Ohne Thant, in
front of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP)
offices in Rangoon. He was holding a placard written in
English and Burmese calling for the United Nations to assist
Burma in honoring the election results of 1990. Prior to his
arrest, U Ohne Thant had entered the UNDP compound and was
received by the Deputy Resident Representative (DRR), who
offered to accept and forward his materials to UNDP
headquarters. The DRR also advised the protester not to
return to the street, lest he be arrested. U Ohne Thant
refused both suggestions and was subsequently picked up by
MI. Authorities are reportedly holding him for questioning
and will likely sentence him to a minimum of seven years in
violation of Section 5(j), Emergency Provision Act of 1950.
3. (SBU) U Ohne Thant's solo protest may have been linked to
a "long march for freedom" that Burmese activists took on
September 21 from the Grafton Peace Pagoda north of Albany,
New York, to UN Headquarters. He had alerted the media to
his plans and several locally based foreign media stringers
witnessed the event. He is the fourth known "solo"
demonstrator to be arrested in Rangoon during the past year;
MI has rounded up at least three in front of City Hall,
although two of the protesters reportedly suffer from mental
illnesses.
4. (SBU) Comment: U Ohne Thant is a well-known, independent
activist who was first arrested in 1988 for leading strikes
in Kachin State. Following his release in 1995, he was
arrested again in 1997 for distributing political pamphlets
calling for greater human rights and sentenced to seven more
years in jail. He was released from his second term on
October 31, 2003. He is popular with Burmese students and
agitated for prison reforms while serving his earlier
sentences. His decision to go it alone is reportedly based
on a desire to draw attention to human rights issues while
minimizing the human suffering that mass protests would
entail. End comment
Martinez
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