The other day I met with two of my contacts in a Rangoon tea shop. They were telling me about an ex-prisoner of conscience who was recently released. It was a person I met at a cultural event the day after he was released. He was nervous, full of anxiety. He was being followed, he said. No doubt it was true as everyone believed him. He was worried for his family and, actually, his family was worried about not only his safety, but their own. They asked him to find some other place to live.
A short time after his family asked him to move out he visited an old friend, someone from 88Gen. They went to a tea shop and spent long hours together talking. Later that night, after they separated, Special Branch went to the home of the old friend and arrested him. It’s unclear why and where the old friend is being held. According to my contacts, the old friend was not politically active, and hadn’t recently been a member of any political group. When I questioned this they stood by it. They knew the old friend who was arrested. They said he had not been involved in politics for years.
This is the sad truth about Burma and the real danger for all Burmese. Many Burmese people claim that there is no real obvious reason, often, as to why Special Branch will arrest someone.
Now, the recently released ex-prisoner is hiding out, staying illegally in a different friend’s home.
It’s illegal for Burmese people to stay overnight in a friend’s home unless they register with the local township authority. While it’s possible to do so undetected, it’s nevertheless dangerous. In some areas and neighborhoods though, it’s easy to go unnoticed. So he was secreted into a house and that’s where he’s at. Living on edge, afraid to wander out and get on with his life.
My contacts claim that many times ex-prisoners of conscience will be released, then followed around for a while, then re-arrested. Also, many people contacted by the ex-prisoner will be questioned and harassed. Sometimes they will be arrested. In one case like this, a woman (I have met her) had a political book in her home. That particular book was banned in Burma. Special Branch found it while searching the home. The book belonged to her daughter who was an 88Gen (still in prison). The mother, who never read the book, was arrested and spent 8 years in prison.
Not only is life miserable for political prisoners after their release, they are also often afraid for their families for fear of putting them in danger. And that goes both ways. Some families don’t want their children who’ve been released to jeopardize their lives and those of other children and relatives.
Follow the White Rabbit