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Prominent Myanmar dissidents go into hiding; Bush urges junta not to arrest protesters

Prominent Myanmar dissidents go into hiding; Bush urges junta not to arrest protesters

Pro-democracy activists in Myanmar scattered into hiding Friday to dodge arrest, while U.S. President George W. Bush urged the country's ruling junta to listen to protesters, not arrest them.
The military government has detained scores of activists and is employing menacing gangs of hired civilian toughs to keep watch in Myanmar's biggest city, Yangon, to snuff out an unusually persistent wave of protests that began Aug. 19 over higher fuel and consumer goods prices.
Only one small protest was reported Friday, in the town of Taunggok in Rakhine State, west of Yangon. The Web site of the Democratic Voice of Burma, a Norway-based opposition shortwave radio station, said two men, Ko Sithu and Ko Than Lwin, held up protest signs at a marketplace.
The report, which could not be independently confirmed, said a soldier punched Ko Sithu and that both protesters were arrested.
Although the protests appear to be losing steam, activists remained defiant.
"I want to implore the people to join hands with us in our movement who have sacrificed our lives and freedom for the good of the people and the country," said Su Su Nway, who is active in labor issues.
In Washington, Bush condemned Myanmar's junta over activists' arrests, saying that their "concerns should be listened to by the regime rather than silenced through force."
He said the generals "should heed the international calls to release these activists immediately and stop its intimidation of those Burmese citizens who are promoting democracy and human rights." Myanmar is also known as Burma.
The government has ordered neighborhood officials and hotels to be on the lookout for key pro-democracy activists, providing photos and information about them, said a local official who asked not to be named for fear of retaliation.
The list of dissidents includes at least one member of the 88 Generation Students group, the most active in carrying out nonviolent anti-government protests. Most of its top members were arrested on Aug. 21, two days after staging the first of the current round of protests.
Those on the list include two women, Mie Mie, a leader of the 88 Generation Students group, and Nilar Thein, wife of Kyaw Min Yu, also known as Jimmy, a detained 88 Generation leader.
Nilar Thein left her 4-month old baby behind when they she went into hiding, her mother-in-law Ah Mar Nyunt said by telephone Friday.
"It is painful to see the child when she seeks her mother at night. We are now worried about the son, daughter-in-law and the baby's health and welfare," she said.
Su Su Nway is not on the wanted list, but said she has gone into hiding for fear of being detained. Despite being a former political prisoner, she has repeatedly taken part in anti-government protests.
"We are peacefully expressing the difficulties that the people of Myanmar are facing, but we are being hunted down like criminals," she told The Associated Press.
In 1988, public protests over rising rice prices were a prelude to a burst of major demonstrations that were violently subdued by the army. The current protests are nowhere near their scale.
The junta held general elections in 1990, but refused to honor the results when the party led by opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi won.
Suu Kyi, a Nobel peace laureate, has been under extended house arrest.


Updated : 2021-07-27 05:03 GMT+08:00