ABSDF Criticizes Burma Army’s Arrest of Leader

By Nyein Nyein 9 January 2017

RANGOON – The government’s decision to detain a leader of armed group the All Burma Students’ Democratic Front (ABSDF) “undermines the current peace building process,” said ABSDF vice chairman U Myo Win at a public consultation in Rangoon last weekend.

Burma Army troops arrested ABSDF central committee member U Min Htay at the Sein Lone checkpoint on the Bhamo-Lwegel road in Moemauk Township—a Kachin Independence Army (KIA)-controlled area of Kachin State—on Dec. 28 last year.

U Min Htay is charged under the Unlawful Associations Act with Burma Army Capt. Thet Swe Lwin as plaintiff and is being held at Bhamo Prison.

His first court date is set for Jan. 13 and the maximum sentence for a guilty verdict is two years.

U Myo Win said that he was negotiating with the government for his comrade’s release but that there were questions over the reason behind the arrest and that the incident had “affected the peace process.”

“It undermines trust. We want all the responsible persons to consider the benefits and the disadvantages regarding this,” added U Myo Win.

The Tatmadaw’s move to arrest a leader of a Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) signatory would dissuade non-signatories from signing the agreement, he said.

The ABSDF is unique as it does not have its own territory; the 800-member group operates in the territories of ethnic armed groups, only some of whom have signed the NCA.

It was formed in 1988 following the nationwide uprising against the late-General Ne Win.

Also known as the “student army,” it has been based in Mon, Karen, Chin, Shan, and Kachin states for the last 28 years.

It signed a bilateral ceasefire agreement with the government in August 2013 and signed the NCA in October 2015.

At a public consultation at the Inya Lake hotel in Rangoon last weekend the ABSDF collected opinions and recommendations on its political position and on polices drafted by ethnic armed groups.

The group intends to share the opinions with armed ethnic group leaders ahead of the next session of 21st Century Panglong Peace Conference scheduled for February.

Patron of the ruling party National League for Democracy U Tin Oo said at the conference that Burma’s public—and especially women and children—were suffering because of renewed conflict between the Burma Army and ethnic armed groups.

“We want that suffering to end,” he said.

He praised the public consultation and said “we must all listen to the people’s desires through this people-centered approach.”

Another ABSDF leader Salai Yaw Aung said that no ethnic armed groups or civil society organizations should be left out of the peace process and criticized the Burma government for dealing with the 21 non-state armed groups in different ways.

The government signed bilateral ceasefire agreements with many groups but not those currently operating in northern Shan State, including the Ta’ang National Liberation Army, Kokang’s Myanmar Nationalities Democratic Alliance Army and the Arakan Army.