BANGKOK—Authorities in Burma have arrested five more opposition activists in connection with nationwide protests in September.
“It happened early this morning, at 1 a.m.,” Nyi Nyi, an anti-government activist now in exile in an undisclosed location, told RFA’s Burmese service.
“In Tamwe district, in Rangoon. At Number 4 Tagon Lwin Street, it happened,” he said. “My mother, my cousin [Thet Thet Aung], …they all were in hiding…”
Nyi Nyi said authorities had arrested his mother, Daw San San Tin, 56, along with four critics of the military government, three of whom began their activism during the mass uprising of 1988 that ended in a crackdown that killed up to 3,000 people.
My mother, my cousin [Thet Thet Aung], …they all were in hiding…
Nyi Nyi said witnesses told him that those arrested were three women—his mother San San Tin, his cousin Ma Thet Thet Aung, 35, and Ma Noe Noe, 20—and two men, Ko Kyaw Swa, 43, and Ko Ko Gyi, 47.
Ko Ko Gyi was with another dissident, Htay Kywe, when he was arrested Oct. 13, Nyi Nyi said, but Ko Ko Gyi “managed to escape.”
Where anyone in the group had been taken was unclear, and the junta made no immediate statement.
On Oct. 8, authorities tried to arrest Thet Thet Aung, along with her husband, Chit Ko Lin, near Mingalar market in Rangoon. Thet Thet Aung escaped and fled into hiding. On Oct. 17, authorities detained her mother and mother-in-law.
My family was asked to inform me....On the morning of the 10th, they took away my mother and my mother-in-law. They blamed me. They said that only when I was captured would they release my mother and my mother-in-law, my parents.
“On Oct. 9, they came back around 2 p.m. and searched until 6 p.m. I was told that they took away my national ID card and that they wanted me,” Thet Thet Aung said from her hiding place earlier this week.
“My family was asked to inform me. On the evening of the 9th, they went around and searched houses—my aunts’ houses. On the morning of the 10th, they took away my mother and my mother-in-law. They blamed me. They said that only when I was captured would they release my mother and my mother-in-law, my parents. They said they wouldn’t release them unless I was captured,” Thet Thet Aung said.
“The youngest child is only about one year and two months old. And this child is not a healthy one. He had a blood transfusion at birth. The day after birth, the child’s blood was transfused, and we had to save his life. He needs a lot of care. The education of the children—the health of the children—…one is eight and the other one is not quite six. They are only at those ages. I’m really concerned for their health and education,” she said.
“I’m also concerned for my parents and my husband. They [the authorities] are really inhumane. My parents—my mother is over 50. She has heart disease, high blood pressure, stomach problems, and also terrible asthma. She has to be on constant medication for her asthma. She has to take her medicine day and night. My mother-in-law is over 70,” Thet Thet Aung said.
“I am extremely worried now for my children. I’m really worried and am thinking what I can do for them—for my parents and my children and my husband. I’m feeling panicked. Just think about it, I’m worried for my children and my parents.”
Sophie Richardson, Asia advocacy director at the Washington office of Human Rights Watch, called the arrests "part of a continuing crackdown focused on tracking down every possible activist and organizer they can find, thousands of them."
The junta has said 10 people were killed when troops fired into crowds of peaceful protesters during the Sept. 26-27 crackdown, and it has reported detaining nearly 3,000 people.
But diplomats and opposition members say the actual death toll is far higher, and that many more people have been arrested. including thousands of monks who led the rallies.
In Washington, U.S. President George Bush meanwhile announced new sanctions against Burma's ruling junta. He ordered a tightening of export controls and urged India and China, with their extensive trade ties with Burma, to step up pressure as well.
Bush directed the U.S. Treasury Department to freeze the financial assets of members of the military regime not covered by previous measures.
"We are confident that the day is coming when freedom's tide will reach the shores of Burma," he said. Washington has already imposed substantial trade, investment, and diplomatic sanctions, freezing assets and imposing visa bans on senior generals and their families.
The European Union has stepped up its sanctions, and Japan has eliminated more than U.S. $4 million in funds.