Myanmar Military Regime Acts to Disrupt West Ties : Southeast Asia: A local employee of the British Embassy gets three years for violation of secrets act.


Myanmar's military government Wednesday was reported to have jailed a local employee of the British Embassy in an apparent effort to sever ties between Western governments and Myanmar's democracy movement.

The official, Nita Yin Yin May, the embassy's information officer, was sentenced to three years in prison by a military tribunal, diplomats said. She was accused of violating the country's official secrets act.

Britain and the United States have taken the lead in condemning human rights abuses in Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, and have called for a speedy transition to the civilian authority elected last May.

Western diplomats said the information officer had twice been arrested and questioned about the British ambassador's views about the National League For Democracy, the opposition group that won a landslide victory in last May's parliamentary elections.

Although the National League triumphed in the elections, Myanmar's military rulers, who call themselves the State Law and Order Restoration Council, have refused to hand over power. Instead, they have embarked on a campaign of repression and arrests of opposition figures, such as NLD leaders and Buddhist monks.

On Tuesday, it was disclosed that two prominent National League officials, Kyi Maung and Chit Khaing, had been sentenced to 10 years in prison for violation of Myanmar's official secrets act.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said: "We are dismayed by the sentences. . . . "We again call upon the military authorities in Burma to release political prisoners and to heed the overwhelming call for parliamentary democracy of the May elections."

Diplomats in Yangon, the capital, have reported more than 50 NLD officials arrested since the crackdown began in September. Aung San Suu Kyi, the party's general secretary, has been under house arrest since July, 1989, and the party's chairman, Tin Oo, was sentenced last December to three years in prison.

Earlier this month, it was disclosed that Maung Ko, a National League organizer, had died while imprisoned in Yangon's Insein jail. Gen. Saw Maung, the leader of the military regime, asserted that Maung Ko had committed suicide after interrogation, but opposition figures charged that he was tortured to death.

Last month, diplomats said the European Community had filed a complaint with the Myanmar government after "illegal incursions" into diplomatic compounds and the arrests of the British employee and a local official at the American Embassy.

The military regime, which took power in a coup in September, 1988, has accused Western nations of trying to destabilize it through contacts with opposition figures. Diplomats have said they believe that the arrests of local employees were designed to intimidate embassies into dropping their contacts with the National League for Democracy.

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