Hundreds of government opponents remained imprisoned, including dozens of prisoners of conscience, despite the release of some 2,000 others in the last 20 months, and at least 40 new political arrests were made. Some of those held were detained without trial, but most had been sentenced after unfair trials. Persistent human rights violations continued to be reported from many parts of the country, with members of ethnic minorities particularly targeted. The violations included arbitrary seizure of civilians to serve as military porters or labourers, ill-treatment and extrajudicial executions. Myanmar remained under martial law and the ruling State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC), chaired by General Than Shwe, continued to refuse to convene the People's Assembly elected in 1990 and to suppress political opposition, freedom of expression and association. Armed groups, representing different ethnic minorities, continued to oppose the government mostly in the east, although by the end of 1993 the SLORC controlled most of the country. Thousands of Mon and Karen civilians were reportedly forcibly relocated from their villages by the army, which frequently resorted to ill-treatment, torture and killings during the resettlements. Human rights violations by the army were widespread and systematic in the context of counter-insurgency activities. On 1 January the official news media announced that the SLORC had commuted all death sentences to life imprisonment, benefiting at least 31 prisoners under sentence of death. It was also announced that all sentences of more than 10 years would be reduced to 10 years. On 9 January a National Convention to establish principles for drafting a new constitution was convened by the SLORC in Yangon, the capital. Almost 700 delegates attended, 120 of them elected members of the People's Assembly including some 90 from the National League for Democracy (NLD), which had won the 1990 elections. The Convention, to be reconvened in January 1994, met intermittently throughout the year. In September Aung Toe, the Chief Justice, set out "basic principles on which the fundamental principles of the state should be based", one of which was "participation of the Defence Services in the leading role in the country's national politics". Hundreds of political prisoners, at least 70 of them prisoners of conscience, remained behind bars; most had been convicted under laws which criminalized peaceful political activity and allowed unfair trials. Despite the abolition of military tribunals in 1992, dozens of political prisoners who had been sentenced to long prison terms after unfair trials by such tribunals were still held. Among the prisoners were leaders and organizers of the NLD and most other opposition parties. Twenty-nine members-elect of the People's Assembly, arrested from 1990 onwards, were still imprisoned at the end of the year. Other prisoners, from every part of Burmese society, included Buddhist clerics, community leaders, university and high school students, writers, civil servants, doctors, lawyers and workers' leaders. Among the prisoners of conscience were NLD leader and 1991 Nobel Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been held under house arrest since 1989; U Kyi Maung, an NLD member-elect of the People's Assembly, who was sentenced to two 10-year prison terms by military tribunals in 1990 and 1991; and Nai Tun Thein, Nai Ngwe Thein, and Nai Bala, three central executive committee members of the Mon National Democratic Front (MNDF), who were arrested in December 1991 and sentenced to 14-year prison terms in late 1992. Over 700 political prisoners were released during the year. They included U Thumingala Linaryar, a prominent Buddhist monk, U Hla Wai, a leader of the Democratic Party for a New Society (DPNS), and Aung Din, a student leader, all prisoners of conscience. However, many released prisoners were still subject to surveillance by military intelligence agents and other restrictions on their freedom, such as being forced to report daily to the local authorities. There were at least 40 new political arrests during the year. In the run-up to the National Convention in January, 14 people were arrested for distributing leaflets critical of the political process. Among them were Shwe Htoo, Yi Myint and Moe Kyaw Oo, who were reportedly sentenced to three years' imprisonment. In August Dr Aung Khin Sint and his assistant, Than Min, both leading NLD members, were arrested for writing and distributing letters to National Convention delegates. In October they were both sentenced to 20 years' imprisonment. Over 20 prisoners, including prisoners of conscience, were sentenced to prison terms after unfair trials. Nay Lin, youth organizer for the Federation of Trade Unions in Burma (FTUB), was reportedly sentenced to seven years' imprisonment in January for putting up posters calling for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi. He was one of several trade unionists arrested in the run-up to the National Convention. Fazal Ahmed, a Muslim member-elect of the People's Assembly from Rakhine (Arakan) State and a member of the National Democratic Party for Human Rights, was reportedly sentenced to two years' imprisonment in March. Prisoner of conscience Ma Thida, a writer and doctor arrested in August, was sentenced with nine others to 20 years' imprisonment in October. Political prisoners were held in poor conditions, sometimes amounting to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. Conditions were particularly harsh in Insein, Thayet and Tharawaddy prisons, where hundreds of political prisoners were held. Students and young people appeared to be particularly targeted for torture and ill-treatment in detention. Prisoners were routinely shackled, deprived of food and water, held in extremely overcrowded cells with poor sanitation and rarely received any medical treatment. Members of ethnic minority groups - such as the Mon, Karen, Shan and Kayah groups who make up one third of the population - continued to be targeted by government forces in the context of their counter-insurgency campaigns. Women and children were particularly vulnerable to grave human rights violations, including rape and murder, as they were frequently left behind in their villages after the men had fled from military advances. Troops routinely entered villages, burned houses, stole livestock and crops and evicted villagers from their homes. Members of ethnic minorities were routinely seized in their villages and fields by the military, accused of supporting insurgents, and severely beaten or subjected to other forms of torture. A 75-year-old woman from Papun township in Kayin State was publicly beaten in February by soldiers because she could not speak Burmese, and so could not answer their questions. In October the army accused a man from Hlaingbwe township of being an insurgent, covered his head with a plastic bag, and then poured hot water into it, causing near-suffocation. Scores of members of ethnic minorities were extrajudicially executed by soldiers. In January troops from the 99th Regiment reportedly entered a village in Thaton district in Kayin State and seized four young farmers, dressed them up as insurgents, photographed and then killed them. The victims included 17-year-old Maw Da. The soldiers allegedly shot the four in the back of the neck and left the bodies behind for the villagers to bury. Troops then burned seven houses and ordered all the villagers to relocate to another area. Patrols from the nearby barracks confiscated livestock and commandeered porters and other unpaid labourers to work at the army camp. Thousands of members of ethnic minorities were arbitrarily seized by the military and forced to serve as porters carrying army supplies, or as unpaid labourers building roads and army camps or working on commercial projects. Porters were held in army custody for periods ranging from a few days to a few months, and some were taken into forced service as many as 20 times in one year. Porters, who received little or no food and water, frequently fell ill from malnutrition and malaria, but received no medical attention and were forced to continue work, sometimes until they collapsed and were left behind or simply killed by troops. Elderly men and women, schoolchildren and pregnant women were among those conscripted. A woman from Hlaingbwe township, Kayin State, was forced to carry ammunition for seven days in March with her 70-year-old husband, whom she said was often beaten because he could not manage his load. He died five days after being released. Another man from Hlaingbwe township was reportedly stabbed to death by troops in August because he could not carry his load. Dozens of porters and labourers were said to have died from exhaustion and neglect, or were shot or beaten to death by soldiers when they became too weak to carry their loads, or were killed for disobeying orders or trying to escape. Female porters were raped by soldiers. Scores of porters were reportedly ill-treated if they were unable to carry their loads, could not speak Burmese well, or attempted to escape. Typically, they were kicked with army boots or beaten with fists, rifle butts or bamboo sticks. In February a Karen woman who had been held for one month was kicked with boots and beaten with a rifle butt because she could not lift her load of mortar shells and rice. In August a Karen man from Hlaingbwe township was kicked repeatedly in the back with army boots because he had slipped and fallen in mud; he said that he was still being treated for internal injuries two months later. In mid-January forced repatriations of Burmese Muslim refugees from Bangla-desh to Myanmar were suspended. Some 260,000 refugees had fled to Bangladesh by the first half of 1992 and several thousand had been repatriated without the protection of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) (see Amnesty International Report 1993). Repatriations later resumed with UNHCR involvement, and by late November it was reported that some 50,000 refugees had been repatriated since September 1992. In November the UNHCR and the SLORC signed a Memorandum of Understanding which stipulated that "UNHCR will be given access to all returnees; that the returnees will be issued with the appropriate identification papers and that the returnees will enjoy the same freedom of movement as all other nationals". In previous years armed opposition groups had tortured, ill-treated or summarily executed prisoners. Amnesty International was not able to investigate fully all such allegations but was concerned by reports that two prisoners were being held incommunicado by one faction of the All Burma Student Democratic Front (ABSDF) and might be at risk of torture or execution. In February Amnesty International wrote on their behalf to General Bo Mya, President of the Democratic Alliance of Burma (DAB), which acts as an umbrella organization for many armed opposition groups including the ABSDF. There was no response but in May the two men were reportedly sentenced to 10 years' imprisonment by a form of military tribunal for allegedly "traitorous" activities. The UN Special Rapporteur on Myanmar submitted an extensive report to the UN Commission on Human Rights in February, detailing human rights violations in Myanmar. In March the Commission adopted a resolution on Myanmar which extended the mandate of the Special Rapporteur for another year and strongly urged the Myanmar Government to restore respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It called on the SLORC to consider lifting emergency measures and to cooperate fully with the Commission and the Special Rapporteur. On 6 December the UN General Assembly adopted without a vote a resolution which welcomed recent improvements made by Myanmar but also "deplored the continued violations of human rights". In October Amnesty International published a major report, Myanmar: The climate of fear continues, members of ethnic minorities and political prisoners still targeted, which described how members of political parties and ethnic minorities lived in an atmosphere of fear which pervaded the whole country. Amnesty International appealed to the government to release prisoners of conscience, to ensure fair and prompt trials for all other political prisoners and to release civilians arbitrarily seized against their will by the military to serve as porters or labourers. While Amnesty International welcomed releases of political prisoners, the commutation of death sentences and the abolition of military tribunals, it called on the authorities to stop arbitrary detention, torture and extrajudicial executions. In oral statements to the UN Commission on Human Rights in March and the Working Group on Indigenous Populations in August, Amnesty International included reference to its concerns in Myanmar.

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