Burmese newspapers, television and radio did not mention the release of Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest. The Burmese learned of this thanks to the four international radio stations that broadcast in Burmese: BBC, Radio Free Asia, Voice of America and Democratic Voice of Burma. The military junta, called the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), controlled all daily newspapers, TV stations and radio stations. The dozens of privately-owned publications (weeklies and monthlies) had to submit to the ordeal of censorship before each issue came out.
Interior minister Tin Hlaing claimed on 19 May that there were "no more political prisoners in Burma" after the release of Aung San Suu Kyi. He acknowledged that some 200 members of the National League for Democracy (NLD) were in prison, but they were there for common crimes, he said. Reporters Without Borders established that at least 16 journalists were imprisoned while Amnesty International estimated that there were at least 1,500 political prisoners in Burma. The concessions made by the military in 2002 did not meet the expectations of the international community including the United Nations, which was directly involved in negotiations. European and US sanctions therefore remained in place.
The SPDC did indeed release several hundred political prisoners, including four journalists. But the most famous detained journalist, Win Tin, began his 13th year in detention in July. While arrests of the regime’s opponents became more and more infrequent, telephone tapping and harassment of family members became commonplace. The families of detained journalists told Reporters Without Borders they had noted an improvement in conditions in the prisons, especially at Insein and Tharrawaddy. Prisoners had the right to more visits. When they cannot receive visitors because, for example, their family members live too far away, they can send letters. The contents of letters are of course checked by the authorities. As is the case during visits, only matters of a personal nature can be discussed in letters. The quality of food has also improved and families are able to give prisoners money more easily. The International Committee of the Red Cross visits the prisons more often and provides grants for families that need to travel long distances for prison visits.
Burma is one of the few countries in the world with pre-publication censorship, which is carried out by the Literary Works Scrutinising Committee (LWSC), an offshoot of the interior ministry. It did not drop its guard in 2002. Criticism of the government and any subjects that irritated the generals (such as human rights, AIDS, drugs and corruption) remained banned. At least seven publications were sanctioned in 2002 with temporary closure for including material deemed "incorrect." The censorship committee, headed by Maj. Aye Tun, a former member of the Military Intelligence Service (MIS), decided each Saturday on the authorisations to be given to publications. Every quarter, the committee sent the interior minister and MIS chief a report on media activity. The committee often asked managing editors and editors to submit their CVs, failing which the newspapers were sanctioned. In August, the security services ordered all the privately-owned media to submit the CVs of all their editorial staff, suspecting pro-opposition journalists of writing articles under pseudonyms.
The few provincial newspapers must undergo a double check. After getting a green light from the censorship office in Rangoon, the editor must go through the local office. An editor from Mon State said it took an average of a month to get final approval after the initial submission to Rangoon. "The local censorship goes so far as to check the calendars," the editor said.
Nonetheless, a few privately-owned magazines in Rangoon such as Sabaibhyu (White Jasmin) and Thought succeeded in publishing articles on politics, economy and culture that offered an alternative to the trite, saccharine propaganda of the press that supports the military junta.
Burma’s embassies abroad had the job of preventing "dangerous" foreign journalists from entering the country. They systematically refused visas to the dozens of foreign journalists who had been put on a blacklist for having at one point or another written or spoken about the political situation in Burma. So reporters had to enter Burma on tourist visas. The few who obtained press visas were closely watched from the moment they arrived. This aversion to foreign reporters hampered regular international coverage of Burma. The Bangkok-based correspondent of a French daily told Reporters Without Borders that he waited for a "major event" in Burma before requesting a visa for fear of being denied one later. There was only one foreign correspondent permanently based in Burma, the one who worked for the official Chinese news agency. The stringers used by the international news agency were necessarily Burmese, often quite old, and under considerable pressure from the authorities.
The Internet situation in Burma was scarcely any better. The Burmese had to settle for an ersatz Internet called the Myanmar Wide Web, which was a national Intranet set up by the junta. The few thousand e-mail accounts were controlled. An Internet law was to be adopted in early 2003, according to Dr. Dr Tun Shin, the justice minister’s chief of staff. The existing information technology law, which was passed in 1996 and was to be merged with this new law, provides for imprisonment for possession of an unauthorised modem.
A few days after her release, the National League for Democracy announced that Aung San Suu Kyi wanted to launch a newspaper. "This is our project. We will see if it is authorised," she said. At the end of the year, the military junta had still not granted her a licence to publish.
16 journalists imprisoned
At least 16 journalists were in prison in Burma at the end of 2002. The were: Aung Pwint, Kyi Tin Oo, Sein Ohn, Myint Thein, Yan Aung Soe, Thaung Tun, Win Tin, Monywa Aung-Shin, Ohn Kyaing, Sein Hla Oo, Khin Maung Win (Sunny), Tha Ban, Aung Zin Min, Thein Tan, Kyaw San and Aung Myint.
A few months after his arrest in September 1999, Aung Pwint was sentenced to eight years in prison for "illegal possession of a fax" and for sending news to banned Burmese publications. He was being held in Irrawaddy prison (in the centre of the country). A poet and video producer aged 57, he is a leading figure in the Burmese media world. In 1996, the authorities banned the screening of his of his video reports on the situation in Burma, deeming them to be "too negative." He is also a pro-democracy activist who spent three years in prison in the 1970s. His wife, a teacher, was living in Pathein, the capital of Irrawaddy Division.
Journalist and poet Kyi Tin Oo was arrested on 1 March 1994 and was sentenced a few weeks later to 10 years in prison by a special court inside Insein prison under articles 5(j) of the protection of the state act and 17(l) of the illegal associations act. The authorities took issue in particular with his political articles in the monthly Moe Wai (which closed in 1996 for financial reasons) and the magazine Tha-bin, banned in 1988. Aged 60, he was previously imprisoned for three years in the 1960s, then for seven years beginning in 1978, and again for several months after the 1988 coup d’etat. In all, he has spent 18 of the last 40 years of his life in prison. A journalist who is now a refugee in Thailand said he was known in press and literary circles for his columns on everyday life in Burma. "He has always loved our people’s culture. He wrote beautiful articles full of compassion for those who suffered." In 1970 he married Than Yi, a library manager and writer known by the pseudonym of Kyaw Zaw, and has four children, including Aung Kyaw Hein, serving a 14-year sentence in Khaley prison for belonging to a banned student movement. Kyi Tin Oo fell ill with heart and hypertension problems in November 2002.
Sein Ohn, 50, a cameraman working with the NLD, was arrested in September 1996 and sentenced to 10 years in prison for distributing uncensored video material and possessing "undeclared" imported equipment (a video camera and video cassette recorder). He used to shoot footage of Aung San Suu Kyi and made video programmes critical of the junta’s policies. In July 1996, he produced a video report that was screened abroad in which peasants complained of the failure of the authorities to provide relief after serious flooding in the Irrawaddy delta. Two other NLD members and two peasants were also arrested after the report came out. Held in Mandalay prison, in the centre of the country, Sein Ohn fell ill in 2000 and spent several months in the prison’s hospital. Since then, he suffered from digestive problems and acute stomach pains but received no medicine from the authorities. For medicine, he had to rely on his sister, photographer Khin Aye Kyu, who was visiting him once every two months.
A teacher and journalist who used the pseudonym Myint Myat Thein, Myint Thein wrote on international relations for several magazines including the monthly Ah-twe-Ah-myin, founded by Soe Thein, Shwe Wut Hmone, Nwe-ni and Thaung-pyaung-htway-la. He was arrested on 4 December 1996 during student demonstrations in Rangoon and was badly beaten by police during interrogation. A few weeks later, he was sentenced to seven years in prison for supporting the student movement in his magazine pieces. He was being held in Thayet prison.
Yan Aung Soe was arrested in October 1998 by members of the Military Intelligence Service (MIS) and was sentenced a few weeks later by a special tribunal to 59 years in prison for being "in contact with organisations abroad." He is known for articles on education published from 1994 to 1997 in semi-legal academic reviews such as Unity and New Century, and in privately-owned magazines such as Thought and Our Life under the pseudonym Thu-rein-htet-linn. An activist since the age of 15 in secondary school and university student associations and in the NLD, he edited and distributed leaflets for these organisations. He was tortured during interrogation at an MIS centre. In 2002, he was being held in Myaungmya prison in the south of the country.
Born in 1959 and known by the pseudonym Nyein Thit, journalist Thaung Tun worked for the magazine Padaut Pwint Thit (banned in 1995), contributed to the Rangoon city magazine and produced video reports for privately-owned production companies. He is also well-known for his poetry. As a political activist, he lived underground for many years and spent three years in prison at the end of the 1970s. Following his arrest on 4 October 1999, he was tortured during more than three weeks of interrogation. Two months later, he was sentenced by a special court to eight years in prison under article 5(j) of the emergency act for the protection of the state for compiling data on human rights violations in Burma and sending it abroad. Initially held in Insein prison, he was transferred in April 2001 to the prison of Moulmein (the capital of Mon State), more than 700 km. from Mandalay, where he is from and where his wife and mother live. They were able to visit him only once every two months. He was said to be in reasonable health.
Arrested on 4 July 1989 and detained in Insein prison, journalist Win Tin was sentenced to three years imprisonment in October 1989, another ten years in June 1992 and seven more years in March 1996, making a total of 20 years. On the third occasion, he was convicted of "secretly publishing anti-government propaganda" from inside prison. Held in cell 10 of Insein prison’s special wing, he was often transferred to the prison’s hospital because of his very delicate health. During his 12 years in prison, he has had two heart attacks, a slipped disc and has undergone surgery. The authorities refused to give him dentures for several months after he lost most of his teeth because of the poor conditions inside the prison.
The former editor of the newspaper Hanthawathi, the author of many articles criticising the regime and a close advisor to Aung San Suu Kyi, Win Tin refused several times to sign a letter of resignation from the NLD in exchange for his release. Admired by his fellow political prisoners and called Saya (the Wise One) by Aung San Suu Kyi and NLD activists, Win Tin never stopped resisting the orders of the authorities pacifically and maintained countless political discussions with his cell mates, one former political prisoner said. It was Win Tin who wrote the final version of the report on the conditions in Insein prison that was smuggled out of the prison and sent to the United Nations special rapporteur for human rights in Burma. When shut up in a dog kennel used as a punishment cell in 1995, he gave a speech to mark Burma’s national holiday.
In the first half of 2002, he spent several months in Rangoon general hospital where he underwent an operation for a hernia. While in hospital, in March, he was visited by the UN special rapporteur, Paulo Sergio Pinheiro. He returned to his special cell in Insein prison on 20 May but his health began to worsen again in July. He began to have haemorrhoid pains and an old urinary infection returned causing prostate problems. Although quite weak when examined by a doctor in the second week of July, Win Tin asked the doctor to prescribe the cheapest medicine possible because he did not want to be a burden on the friend who has been visiting him for 10 years and who would not have been able to afford expensive drugs. A sympathetic prison guard commented to this friend: "He has a will of steel and never shows the least sign of depression, but this time I’m very worried for his health."
He was transferred back to Rangoon general hospital where he and three other political prisoners - Aye Thar Aung, Htwe Myint and Dr. Than Nyein - began a "hospital strike" on 11 August, demanding to be returned to prison if they were not treated like "normal patients." Having transferred them from their prison cells to the hospital, the authorities were failing to give them the drugs or the operations they needed, they said. After a month and half in the hospital, Win Tin was returned to his cell in Insein prison on 6 September. He was visited by UN special rapporteur Pinheiro for almost on hour on 28 October in Insein. Win Tin told him he wished all the prisoners were treated alike, that he thought his health was good, and that he regretted being unable to read any newspapers except the government press. Now aged 72, Win Tin was being held in cell 5 of Insein prison’s special wing for "important prisoners" at the end of 2002.
Appeals for Win Tin’s release have come from all over the world. Czech President Vaclav Havel, UNESCO’s director-general and at least 70 mayors have signed the petition launched by Reporters Without Borders and the magazine Maires de France (Mayors of France). In this petition, the mayor affirmed their support of Win Tin and urge the Burmese authorities to set him free.
Aung Myint was sentenced to 21 years in prison on 20 December 2000 for disseminating news about the NLD to foreign news agencies and western embassies in Rangoon. He was being held in Insein prison. Better known by the pseudonym Phyapon Ni Loan Oo, he used to write for the magazine Cherry and the review Mahaythi. Many of his articles were banned by the censors or rejected by privately-owned magazines. His wife Ma Tha-bye, a recognised writer, edits the magazine Cherry.
Aung Zin Min was being held in Thayet, in the centre of the country. He was arrested with journalist Cho Seint in December 1996 and sentenced to seven years in prison for supporting the 1996 student demonstrations in his poems, published above all else in the magazine New Style which he helped to edit. In 1988, he tried to smuggle 50 small poems written on pieces of plastic out of the prison. A guard caught him passing them to his wife during a visit. The poems were confiscated and Aung Zin Min was banned from having visits for a month. In November 2002, Reporters Without Borders learned that he was suffering from depression and serious memory problems. As his family was visiting him only two or three times a year, he was unable to supplement his prison food and his intestinal problems had increased in recent months. His cell mates were very worried about the deterioration in his health and above all by the lack of family support.
Known by the pseudonym Cho Seint, Kyaw San was transferred to Tharrawaddy in May 1997. He was sentenced to seven years in prison for supporting the 1996 student demonstrations in his articles and poems, published in opposition magazines. He was badly beaten during interrogation at the start of 1997 and has been partially deaf ever since. He is the grandson of Thakin Kotaw Hmime, one of the fathers of independence along with Gen. Aung San. The military has deliberately deprived his family of resources, and he was receiving almost no visits or help from outside prison. A former fellow inmate said his combative attitude never flagged and he even took part in a hunger strike in 1998 to demand more water and for cell doors to be left open during the day. The prisoners obtained their demands.
Sentenced to seven years in prison in October 1990 and another 10 years in May 1991, Ohn Kyaing was serving his sentences in Toungoo prison after being transferred from Insein at the end of 1993. He was elected as representative of the city of Mandalay to the people’s assembly in 1990. As a journalist better known by the pseudonym Aung Wint, he worked in turn for Kyemon, Botahtaung and the magazine Youqshin Aunglan, advocating democracy in his writing. The military took particular offense at an article entitled "Three ways to achieve power" in an opposition publication. Born in 1944, he is married and the father of four. His wife had to sell half of their home to meet his needs. He had hypertension and haemorrhoids. One of his daughters was able to visit him in Toungoo prison in September 2002. His morale was good, despite his poor health.
Sein Hla Oo was arrested in August 1994 and given a seven-year prison sentence which expired at the end of August 2001. The authorities gave no explanation for their failure to release him. A journalist and people’s assembly representative, he was accused above all of distributing his "anti-government" articles to embassies and foreign news media. The graduate of a US journalism school, he used to write for Botahtaung and is an acclaimed cinema critic. Previously held in Insein prison, he was transferred in February 1997 to Myitkyina prison in the north of the country, where conditions were much harsher. Inmates had to cope with a colder climate, malaria and food that was even worse than in the prisons in the south of the country. Family visits were also much more infrequent as it took two days’ travel and the equivalent of a month’s salary to get there. But his wife was able to send him money for food and medicine. After making one of her rare visits was in February 2002, prison officials refused to let her make further visits to see her husband. In May 2002, those in charge of the prison refused to give any information about his fate. Some sources said the interior ministry had suspended visits to all of the prison’s 15 political prisoners. His wife was received at the home of Aung San Suu Kyi, who asked about her husband’s situation and promised to intervene with the military authorities on his behalf. A few days later, his wife learned that the ban on visits had been lifted. Despite the cost and the length of the trip to Myitkyina, she decided to visit him as soon as possible. His family was especially concerned about the number of malaria cases in the prison.
According to certain sources, Sein Hla Oo was not freed in August 2001 because the authorities decided to make him serve out another 10-year sentence he was given in 1990 for possessing information of a treasonable nature under article 124 of the criminal code. He had been given an early release in May 1992, 15 months before his re-arrest in August 1994.
Khin Maung Win, a photographer and cameraman known by the pseudonym of Sunny, was being held in Loi-Kaw prison, more than 300 km. northeast of Rangoon, where he was serving a seven-year sentence for helping to interview Aung San Suu Kyi before a summit of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) in 1997. The authorities accused him of belonging to a group involved in anti-government activities who were called "puppets of the American government" by Gen. Khin Nyunt a few weeks before his arrest in June 1997. He was previously held in Kalay prison in the northwest, where inmates went on hunger strike in early March to demand the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and all other political prisoners. Another hunger strike to demand the release of political prisoners was launched on 16 May. Khin Maung Win was removed from Kalay prison on 21 May after prisons guards decided that he and a NLD people’s assembly representative, Khun Myint Tun, were the ones who started the protest. His family was not at first told where he had been transferred and spent some time without any word of him. His wife wrote to the headquarters of the NLD about the difficulty she was having in seeing her husband. Khin Maung Win’s father was one of a group of relatives of political prisoners who were received in July by Aung San Suu Kyi. On 1 October, Khin Maung Win finally received a visit from his father for the first time since his transfer.
Thein Tan was being held in Thayet prison after spending six years in Insein. The owner of a bookstore in his home town of Mandalay, he wrote for the government newspaper Kyemon before contributing to many privately-owned magazines in the 1980s. He was arrested at the end of 1990 because of an article he wrote about the murder of four people in Mandalay in August of that year. Sentenced to 10 years in prison, he should have been set free in 2000, but the authorities imposed an additional sentence of unknown length. Aged 72, his health worsened markedly in the last months of 2002.
Monywa Aung-Shin was serving a seven-year prison sentence imposed under article 17 (20) of the emergency act after he was arrested in September 2000. The former editor of the magazine Sar-maw-khung (Literary World), which was banned in 1990, he was one of the NLD’s press officers.
Arrested in March 1997, Tha Ban was sentenced to seven years in prison for his pro-democracy writing and because he helped a student gather data on the history of a student association. He was reportedly transferred from Insein prison to the Arakan State prison in the west of the country, where he is from. Agred 65, he has been suffering from dysentery for several years and must rely on his wife, a retired school teacher, to bring him medicine. His family said his vision had deteriorated considerably recently and he could turn blind if not treated by a specialist. The authorities had not granted this request by the end of 2002.
Seven members of the clandestine distribution network of the banned publication Mojo were also imprisoned. They were Mg Hla Soe, arrested in August 1999 in MyaWaDee (Kayin State), Ko Win Naing, arrested in September 1999 in Pegu (east of Rangoon), Mg Kyaw Wae Soe, arrested in September 1999 in Tha-Ka-Ta (near Rangoon), Joseph, arrested in September 1999 in Pa-an (Kayin State), Tint Wae, arrested in May 2000 in KaMarYut (near Rangoon), and Ko Myo and Ma Htay Htay, both arrested in May 2000 in Belinn (Mon State).
Four journalists were released during 2002.
Myo Myint Nyein, 50, was released from Tharrawaddy prison (100 km. north of Rangoon) on 13 February after 12 years in prison and two years before completing his sentence. He was first transferred to Rangoon where he was interrogated for several hours by the MIS before being allowed to go home. His release appeared to be related to the visit by UN special rapporteur Pinheiro. Co-editor of the magazine Yin-Kyae-Hmu (Culture) and editor of the review Shwe Amyu-te, he was arrested in September 1990 and sentenced to 14 years in prison under the 1950 emergency act for publishing a satirical poem about the military junta. In an exclusive interview for Democratic Voice of Burma, he said his spirit had not been broken and his commitment to democracy was as strong as ever. About his release, he said: "MIS men came to my cell at 3 p.m. to tell me I was going to be released. At 4 p.m., I left the prison." He also described the torture he underwent in prison, including months spent in a dog kennel in Insein prison. He said the authorities relaxed the conditions of detention for political prisoners before the UN special rapporteur’s visit, "but that only lasted as long as he stayed." He added that he had "faith in dialogue" between the military regime and the opposition.
Ma Chaw Chaw, better known by her pseudonym Nyi Nyi Yin, was released from Insein prison at the start of March. She and her husband were arrested in 1997 and sentenced to 10 years in prison under the printing act for illegal possession of books and newspapers. She had a serious heart ailment. Her husband remained in prison. Another dissident, Yin Htwe, was released on 2 December from Tharrawaddy prison. He had been accused of helping to publish a clandestine magazine in Insein prison.
Sein Hlaing, who edited the magazine Yin-Kyae-Hmu (Culture) jointly with Myo Myint Nyein, was released from Tharrawaddy prison (100 km. north of Rangoon) on 14 May after 12 years in prison, and two years before completing his sentence. He was set free under a special amnesty for 10 opponents of the military junta. He told the Reporters Without Borders correspondent by telephone that he was in good health, but needed time to readapt to freedom. He thanked all the human rights organisations that campaigned for his release. He was arrested with Myo Myint Nyein and poet Nyan Paw by MIS agents on 9 September 1990 and, two months later, he was sentenced to seven years in prison for publishing an article criticising the army. On 28 March 1996, he was sentenced to a further seven years in prison for helping to draft a report to the UN special rapporteur on conditions of detention and ill-treatment in Insein prison and for helping to produce an underground magazine within the prison.
Photographer Khin Aye Kyu confirmed to Reporters Without Borders by telephone in July that she was freed four months earlier after four years in prison and was trying to get started as a photographer again. She said she regretted that her brother Ko Sein Ohn and his friend, the photographer Sunny, were still in prison and subjected to harsh conditions. She explained that she had been sentenced to four years in prison, not ten, as all the reports about her said. "My brother got 10 years because of his work as a cameraman but I was luckier. Now I must look after him because his wife has no work and cannot help him." She said she was selling lottery tickets on the streets in order to survive and help her brother, who she was visiting every two months. She said she had covered Aung San Suu Kyi’s visit to a Rangoon neighbourhood. "I want to resume work as a photographer and cameraman, but it’s expensive and I don’t have anyone to sell to yet."
Thaw Thaw Myo Han, a young journalist and student, was arrested by the MIS at his home in Rangoon on the night of 17 August and was set free along with 19 other students on 23 August. At least 21 students had been arrested beginning on 17 August, while dozens of others went into hiding. The Thailand-based magazine Irrawaddy said Thaw Thaw Myo Han had apparently been arrested because the military suspected he was involved in a planned pro-democracy march. He told Radio Free Asia on his release that he and his comrades had been detained and questioned for "illegal publications." They had not been mistreated, he said. He was already briefly detained by police in July for putting out an issue of a university literary magazine without authorisation. The magazine is the work of a student literary association.
A journalist threatened
The Burmese authorities, especially the War Office in Rangoon, began trying to persuade the Thai authorities in early 2002 to hand over Myint Maung Maung, correspondent of the Norway-based Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB) in Ranong, in southern Thailand. His name had already appeared in a file which the Burmese representatives on the Thai-Burmese border committee gave their Thai counterparts in November 2001. The Burmese proposed swapping him for certain Thai prisoners. Thanks to Thai protectors, he was not extradited but he had to stop working while his papers were sorted out. In April, he obtained a work permit with the support of two Thai police officers but they were transferred shortly thereafter. In the meantime, the DVB management decided to give him a spell in Norway.
Pressure and obstruction
Ko Tin Saw, also known as Tharkhan, was arrested in the market of Kawthaung (in the extreme south) on 12 February 2002 on his return of Ranong in Thailand. Found in possession of a mobile telephone and a copy of the latest issue of Khit Pyaing (New Era), a monthly published by Burmese exiles in Bangkok, he was accused by the security agents of sending news reports to foreign radio stations that broadcast in Burmese. They also told him they were seeking other informants of international radio stations. He was taken to security agency base No. 3 in Kawthaung, where he was reportedly tortured during interrogation and gave the names of three other informants.
Mu Thu, the editor of the monthly Dana (Well-Being), had to drop one of the magazine’s regular sections in April under pressure from the Literary Works Scrutinising Committee. The section, which included interviews with intellectuals and experts on social and economic issues, was considered by the censors to be too critical about the country’s economic situation.
The Literary Works Scrutinising Committee told the editors of privately-owned publications in Rangoon on 22 May that they could no long publish articles or advertising about Thailand. Editors were forced to sign an undertaking that they would respect this order. The Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB) reported that editors were also told to stop using the words Thailand and Yodaya (the ancient name for the Kingdom of Siam). A journalist in Rangoon told DVB that Thai businesses were the biggest source of advertising for some publications and that the ban on ads referring to Thailand could therefore force some of them to close. These bans stemmed from a diplomatic and military crisis between the two countries. Following clashes in the border area between Burmese government troops and armed rebels, the SPDC closed frontier posts with Thailand. At the same time, the website of the Thailand-based magazine Irrawaddy reported that the junta banned the economic weekly Market Journal on 24 May from carrying the advertising of privately-owned service enterprises. This followed arrests of businessmen accused of violating Burma’s accounting rules.
The magazines Living Color, Mhyar Nat Maung Mingalar and Kyi pwar yee were banned from appearing during the month of June 2002 by the Literary Works Scrutinising Committee. The Thailand-based monthly Irrawaddy said that the economic magazine Living Color was sanctioned for carrying the advertising of MK Billiard Company, which had upset the sports ministry by refusing to donate equipment to the official billiard association. Founded in 1995 and edited by a son of Lt. Gen. Khin Nyunt, Living Color had never been punished before. Kyi pwar yee was banned for using the word Yodaya (an old name for Thailand) in its most recent issue. Mhyar Nat Maung Mingalar, a magazine covering women’s and literary news founded in 1991, was banned for putting advertising on the page reserved for the obligatory SPDC propaganda.
Two members of the NLD youth wing were caught in possession of copies of the Thailand-based Khit Pyaing (New Era) in a market in Rangoon in July. According to Irrawaddy, Aung Thein and Kyaw Naing Oo were beaten by police and one of them had to be given five stitches to the head. They were tried at the end of August by a court sitting within Insein prison under article 5(j) of the emergency act and sentenced to three years in prison. Previously, in 1994, at least 23 opposition members were arrested in possession of Khit Pyaing and were sentenced to terms ranging from seven to 20 years in prison.
Fifteen Thai journalists were banned from visiting Burma on 12 July on the grounds that they had produced propaganda against the Burmese junta. The authorities did not initially publish the names of the blacklisted journalists, but Kyaw Win, the deputy chief of military intelligence, said they worked for The Nation, Bangkok Post, Thai Rath, Thai News, Daily News, Siam Rath, Matichon, Khao Sod and a radio station. The measure was probably a response to the decision of the Thai authorities in May to ban visits by Maung Maung, editor of the junta’s official newspaper, New Light of Myanmar, and Ma Tin Win, one of its editorialists. The junta issued the names of the 15 banned Thai journalists on 29 July in an order sent to Burmese embassies with instructions that they should be arrested if they tried to enter Burma under a false identity. They were Suvit Wat, Supalak Kanchana Khundee, Supaluk Kanchana Khundee, Ubon Rittular Anfong, Kavi Chongkittavorn, Thepchai Yong, Tairai Sunthon Prahart, Anchalee Phatrak, Fonkhon Adonyanon, Dr. Chanvit Kasit, Lomoliam Ynic, Lomta Larynhit, Nainmaha Saitthai and Sailop Phubua.
About 30 activists, mostly former political prisoners, were arrested and questioned by security agents on 25 September for possessing copies of opposition publications, above all the Thailand-based Khit Pyaing (New Era). The magazine Irrawaddy said the arrests were an MIS operation to intimidate the regime’s opponents and deny them access to banned publications. More than a dozen of those arrested were still being held in an undisclosed location at the end of the year.
The Literary Works Scrutinising Committee on 10 October banned the monthly Han Thit (New Style) and Beauty Magazine from appearing for a month. The radio station Democratic Voice of Burma said Han Thit was banned because its October issue quoted a poem by Maung Chaw Nwe, who died in September, in which reference was made to another writer, Ko Lay, whose works have been banned since 1997 because he took part in a literary meeting organised by the NLD. Since then, newspapers have been expressly forbidden to mention his name. Beauty Magazine was banned for running a Thai company’s advertisement.
Articles by writer Maung Swan Yi were banned by the Literary Works Scrutinising Committee at the start of December. He had just written one, which was to have appeared in the December issue of the magazine Mahethi.
It was reported on 19 December that the Literary Works Scrutinising Committee had banned the news media from referring to the theft of a several tens of thousands of euros from a famous Burmese actress in Mon State, in the south of the country. The police had failed to identify and arrest the culprits.