Myanmar sues 14 opposition members for birthday protest
Jul 4, 2008, 14:23 GMT
Yangon - Myanmar authorities charged 14 members of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy Friday who called for her freedom on her 63rd birthday last month.
The 14, who shouted slogans and released 63 sparrows outside their party headquarters on June 19, were charged with destabilizing the state and forming an illegal gathering.
Witnesses said the protest was quickly broken up when officials spilled out of government cars that whizzed to the scene. Suu Kyi heads the NLD, although she has spent 12 of the past 18 years under house arrest.
Suu Kyi, the 1990 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, has been in near complete isolation since May 2003, after government thugs attacked her and her supporters in Depayin township, central Myanmar, leaving several dead. One May 27, Myanmar's junta extended her house detention for another year.
Political activists in Myanmar have used Suu Kyi's birthday to highlight the lack of democratic progress in the country, which was hit in May by Cyclone Nargis.
The All Burma Monks' Alliance, one of the organizers of anti- government protests last September, appealed last month to the European Union Council, for example, to refocus on Myanmar's ongoing political plight.
The junta, headed by Senior General Than Shwe, drew international ire for its brutal crackdown on Buddhist monks last September and more recently for its callousness in handling disaster relief for some 2.4 million people affected by Cyclone Nargis, that smashed across the country's central coastal region on May 2-3 leaving at least 133,000 people dead or missing.
Last year's protests, the biggest for a decade and a half, were preceded by bold street demonstrations by activists upset by rising fuel and transport prices or the continuing lack of freedom. The government is keeping several hundred activists in prison, often for years, sometimes releasing a few or arresting more.
The junta proceeded to hold a referendum in May on a new constitution that enshrines military control, even in the face of the devastation caused by Cyclone Nargis. Analysts were skeptical when the authorities reported that 90 per cent of the electorate voted and over 90 per cent approved the military-backed constitution.