Fugitive Student Detained in Rangoon, Second Activist Arrest in One Week

By Nobel Zaw 4 November 2015

RANGOON — Student activist Lin Htet Naing, also known simply as “James,” was arrested late Tuesday for his role the education reform protest movement, after spending more than seven months in hiding.

Lin Htet Naing, who is married to jailed activist Phyo Phyo Aung, was the second student demonstrator to be apprehended in less than a week, after fellow fugitive Kyaw Ko Ko was arrested last Thursday.

Speaking to The Irrawaddy by phone on Wednesday, a spokesperson for the All Burma Federation of Student Unions (ABFSU) confirmed that Lin Htet Naing had been found, arrested and transported to an unknown location in police custody.

“We can only confirm that he is detained by police, but we don’t know where he is and I am very worried about it,” said Aung Nay Paing of ABFSU, adding that the 27-year-old had been detained while on a bus heading to Shwepyithar Township.

Following his arrest, Special Branch officers searched Lin Htet Naing’s home around 10am on Wednesday morning, interrogating one of his family members and confiscating some of his financial assets.

“The police confirmed that they arrested James but they didn’t want to tell me where he is,” his aunt, Myint Myint Sein, told The Irrawaddy after officers left their family home. Lin Htet Naing’s relatives are now waiting at the Kamayut Township Court where they believe he will be taken for arraignment.

An arrest warrant was issued for Lin Htet Naing in earlier this year, just after a brutal March 10 crackdown on student demonstrators in Letpadan, Pegu Division, that initially landed more than 100 students and supporters in jail.

Lin Htet Naing faces charges of unlawful assembly, rioting and incitement for his role in a solidarity protest that took place on the same day in Rangoon’s Hledan Township.

More than 60 people are in Thayawady Prison on charges relating to the March 10 protest, the violent conclusion of six weeks of nationwide protests against Burma’s National Education Law.

Most have been in detention for nearly eight months, facing prison terms of up to nine and a half years and sitting through a trial subject to numerous adjournments and walkouts by the presiding judge.

International and domestic rights bodies—including the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission—have called for the release of all prisoners of conscience and student activists in detention before a general election to be held on Nov. 8.

Aung Nay Paing of ABFSU said the recent “crackdown” on remaining activists indicates the government’s reluctance to allow free participation in the polls.

“The government is afraid of an all-inclusive election,” he said, “so they detain the students and the politicians beforehand.”