Special Branch Harassing White Armband Campaign: Organizers

By Nobel Zaw 19 March 2015

RANGOON — Organizers of the white armband campaign, which was formed to protest violent government crackdowns on student demonstrators, said on Thursday that plainclothes security forces from the Ministry of Home Affairs had been recording and interrogating the campaign’s participants in Rangoon and Mandalay.

Poet Saung Kha, one of the campaign’s organizers, told The Irrawaddy that Special Branch officers were using mobile phone cameras to record both the campaign members and those accepting white armbands.

“My colleagues said [the Special Branch officers] recorded the people involved in the campaign and then called their superiors,” he said.

Saung Ka said that campaign members had observed the Special Branch officers relaying the campaign’s actions over the phone. He added that organizers in Mandalay had informed him of similar actions taken by Special Branch members in that city.

Ni Lar, a participant in the campaign who has been handing out armbands on Pansodan Street in downtown Kyauktada Township, told The Irrawaddy that plainclothes men had confronted people who had stopped to speak to campaign members, which was in turn intimidating members of the public into avoiding the campaign.

After beginning across various townships in Rangoon on Mar. 13, the white armband campaign was on Thursday being rolled out to 19 other regional centers, including Pyin Oo Lwin, Magwe, Prome and Dawei.

The campaign was launched by Saung Kha and others in the aftermath of an attack on a student protest on Mar. 5, which resulted in multiple injuries to demonstrators and the detention of more than 100 people. Its members are donning armbands which read “We are students, respect our rights” and distributing them to members of the public.

“On Mar. 5 the solidarity protest held for Letpadan students near Sule Pagoda was attacked violently by plainclothes men. We want to denounce this event, which is the reason for this campaign,” Saung Kha said.