(AFP) – Aug 17, 2008
YANGON (AFP) — Myanmar's military authorities have jailed five young activists for taking part in a small street rally marking the anniversary of a 1988 pro-democracy uprising, an opposition party member said Sunday.
The five youth members of detained opposition leader Aung Sun Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) party were arrested on August 8 as they marched with 43 other people in western Rakhine state.
"Altogether five protesters including a woman were sentenced on August 15 to two-and-a-half years imprisonment," said Thein Hlaing, a local NLD member.
"The authorities took action against them under two laws: joining a protest and creating public unrest ... We will appeal as much as we can."
The sentencing came before a visit to the country by Ibrahim Gambari, the United Nations' most senior diplomat working to push the junta towards reform, who is due to arrive in Myanmar on Monday for a five-day visit.
He will likely be hoping for a more successful visit then his previous trip in March, which UN officials described as "disappointing" after the junta publicly rebuffed his calls for political reform.
The NLD's spokesman in Yangon Nyan Win told AFP that they hoped to meet with the envoy, but had heard nothing yet. It also remained unclear if Gambari would be allowed to meet Aung San Suu Kyi.
"We haven't got any information yet but we are also expecting to meet him, like we did during his previous visit," Nyan Win said.
Myanmar earlier this month silently marked the 20-year anniversary of the so-called 8.8.88 student-led uprising, when hundreds of thousands of people across the country protested against the junta.
The movement ended in chaos and failure. In the six weeks following the mass surge of public anger, soldiers fired on crowds as they tried to regain control of the streets, killing at least 3,000 demonstrators and bystanders.
The small protest in Rakhine state -- during which some people wore T-shirts reading "The time has come, let's unite" -- appears to have been the only public event marking the two-decade anniversary.
Myanmar has been ruled by the military since 1962. Aung San Suu Kyi led the NLD to an overwhelming election victory in 1990, but the junta never recognised the result and has kept her locked away for most of the intervening years.
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