September 12, 2008 / 7:26 AM / 11 years ago

Myanmar activist arrested after year on run

YANGON (Reuters) - Myanmar’s junta has arrested a prominent democracy activist who abandoned her four-month-old baby and went into hiding a year ago at the start of major anti-regime protests, a family friend said on Friday.

Nilar Thein, also known as Ma Nilar, was picked up on Wednesday night as she visited the mother of another detained activist in a northeast suburb of Yangon, the friend, who did not want to be identified, told Reuters.

Along with her husband, Ko Jimmy, she was a central member of the so-called “88 Generation Students” who spearheaded a nationwide democracy uprising in 1988 that was eventually crushed with the loss of an estimated 3,000 lives.

The same group were also behind the string of small fuel price protests in August last year that snowballed into the mass Buddhist monk-led demonstrations against decades of military rule a month later.

Most 88 Generation leaders, including Ko Jimmy, were arrested in mid-August last year and remain in prison. They were charged in January with offences that could see them imprisoned for seven years or more. It is not known if they have yet been tried.

Nilar Thein, who is in her late 30s, managed to evade capture but was forced to leave her infant child with her mother-in-law, a sacrifice that drew significant international attention to the plight of the former Burma’s clandestine democracy campaign.

Three weeks after his arrest, rumors swept Yangon that Ko Jimmy had died in police custody. They turned out to be false, and many suspected they were planted by the junta to flush out his wife.

For the same reason, the junta’s spies have kept a close eye on Nilar Thein’s daughter, now a 17-month toddler.

From hiding, Nilar Thein and two other dissidents wrote a letter to the United Nations Security Council in October calling for a blanket arms embargo against the junta, which received diplomatic cover last year from Moscow and Beijing.

The family friend did not know where she was being held.

Reporting by Aung Hla Tun, Writing by Ed Cropley; Editing by Darren Schuettler

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