Monks and activists in Myanmar have told Amnesty International of the brutal repression suffered by anti-government protesters in the country.
A series of interviews with prominent activists, including Mie Mie, Htay Kywe and Nay Tin Myint, have exposed government tactics of ongoing night raids, arbitrary arrests and appalling detention conditions.
These first-hand accounts follow last weekend's detention of six people, including Htay Kywe, Mie Mie, Aung Thu, Aung Gyi and and young activist Zaw Htet Ko Ko, all members of the 1988 Generation Students group.
"We have seen police asking for money from families of detainees if they want their family members to be released. Young people who are on their way to offices and schools are not only stopped and checked but also robbed," said Mie Mie shortly before her arrest.
Burmese who had fled to the Thai-Myanmar border described violence by riot police against marchers and onlookers, including women and monks.
"Some of the injured were so bloody that you couldn't tell where blood was coming from. Some of the monks lost the top part of their robes. I saw civilians trying to help an injured monk. Most of their injuries were head injuries. The riot police were aiming for the head," said a 31 year-old monk who witnessed confrontations between protesters and police at Shwe Dagon pagoda on 26 September.
Shortly before his arrest, Htay Kywe said, from hiding, that "the international community must stand clearly to prevent further violations." He also called on "the international community to help as much as it can" to prevent further violations.
Htay Kywe, Mie Mie, Aung Thu, Aung Gyi and Zaw Htet Ko Ko were involved in the early protest marches in August, but were soon forced into hiding as the authorities launched a manhunt for those they perceived as the leaders of the protests, in particular Htay Kywe. On 21 August, 13 key activists of the 88 Generation Students group were arrested in an overnight operation.
The release on Wednesday of famous comedian and former prisoner of conscience, Zargana, was overshadowed by emerging reports that a growing number of those arrested in the crackdown have been sentenced to jail or labour camps in highly flawed proceedings, including in hastily convened courts behind prison walls.
State press has earlier warned that those held over the protests could face jail sentences. The New Light of Myanmar warned on 9 October, "Anyone who is detained for his violation of law must be charged and serve prison terms if he is found guilty."
Continued arrests fly in the face of the promises made last week by the Myanmar authorities to cooperate with the United Nations. On 11 October, the UN Security Council strongly deplored the violent crackdown and stressed the importance of the early release of all political prisoners.
Up to now, the Myanmar state media has indicated that nearly 3,000 people have been arrested and more than 2,500 have been released, but the true number of people still in detention is likely much higher. At the time of writing, arrests continue to be reported. In their announcements, the Myanmar authorities have also failed to provide details about who has been detained, where people are held, in what conditions and why they have been arrested.
There are continued disturbing reports of searches, surveillance and harassment of people who took part in the protests. Threats are reportedly also made to family members and neighbours of suspected protesters.
Thailand-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners has reported that a detained member of the National League for Democracy, the main opposition party, died as a result of torture during interrogation. Ko Win Shwe, 42, was reportedly arrested with four others on 26 September because of their participation in demonstrations.
Despite Zargana's release, his fellow comedian Par Par Lay, and many others continue to be denied their freedom.
Amnesty International has condemned the use of violence against peaceful protestors and is seriously concerned at the safety of all those detained across the country. The organisation has called on the authorities to ensure that detainees are not subjected to torture or any other ill-treatment and are released immediately.