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Myanmar police raid homes as manhunt intensifies

YANGON (Reuters) - Myanmar’s military junta tightened the net around leaders of a rare string of protests on Thursday, raiding homes of known activists and their friends and distributing their photographs in a Yangon-wide manhunt.

Demonstrators are stopped by men in civilian clothes during a protest in Yangon August 28, 2007. REUTERS/Democratic Voice of Burma

“I know they’ve been after me since our protest on Tuesday,” Suu Suu Nway, an outspoken critic of the ruling generals, told Reuters by telephone. “I heard they have sent pictures of three women activists, including me, to several of their offices.”

The other two are believed to be Ma Mee Mee and Ma Nilar, two well-known women members of the so-called “88 Generation Students Group”, the still influential leaders of a mass uprising against the former Burma’s military rulers in 1988.

Fourteen people from Tuesday’s demonstration, videotaped and photographed by undercover government spies, had now been picked up, Suu Suu Nway added.

The 34-year-old was roughed up by the junta-backed gang that broke up the march against soaring fuel prices and has gone into hiding since, apart from a brief hospital check-up.

“I’m not afraid of being arrested but I’m not feeling well at the moment,” she said.

The opposition National League for Democracy said more than 100 people had been arrested in the week-long crackdown, one of the junta’s fiercest since troops were used to crush the 1988 unrest, in which up to 3,000 people were believed killed.

On Wednesday night, police and plainclothes officials raided homes in the north of the former capital, apparently looking for the few well-known activists to have evaded capture.

“They didn’t find the people they were after,” one activist said. “Some people heard them mentioning the names of some colleagues of Htin Kyaw.”

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Htin Kyaw and an accomplice were dragged off by a junta-sponsored gang at the weekend after shouting slogans against declining living standards and more than four decades of military rule.

It was the fourth time this year he had been arrested.

ARRESTED FOR GIVING WATER

Demonstrations have also broken out in at least three other parts of the country, including one in the northwest port city of Sittwe, where about 200 Buddhist monks participated in protests for the first time.

In most cases, bystanders have cheered the marchers although have been too scared to join in, suggesting the nascent social movement is unlikely to snowball into another 1988-style “people power” revolt. There were no reports of protests on Thursday.

A source in Sittwe said three people had been arrested for giving water to monks during Tuesday’s march.

Opposition leader and Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi has been held incommunicado throughout the protests, under house arrest in her lakeside Yangon home.

The country’s second-most influential opposition figure, 88 Generation leader Min Ko Naing, is being held in Yangon’s notorious Insein prison with at least 12 of his colleagues. They face up to 20 years in jail on charges of undermining the state.

One 88 Generation leader still at large is Htay Kywe, who managed to escape the coordinated series of midnight arrests of Min Ko Naing and the others a week ago.

One activist source said Htay Kywe, who was jailed for 15 years for his part in the 1988 uprising like Min Ko Naing, might even have managed to flee to neighbouring Thailand, home to many Myanmar exiles and dissident groups.

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