Wed 31 Aug 2011
Filed under: On The Border
Mahn Nyein Maung, a leading member of the Karen National Union (KNU) who once escaped from Burma’s most notorious penal colony, is again in the hands of the Burmese authorities after being sent to Rangoon by Chinese officials, according to family members.“The latest information we have is that our father was handed over to Burmese intelligence agents by officials in Kunming,” said his eldest son, who asked not to be identified by name.
The family said that Mahn Nyein Maung was arrested in the capital of China’s Yunnan Province in July after being sent back from Bangkok, where he was denied entry by Thai immigration officials.
Mahn Nyein Maung had earlier traveled to Yunnan from Thailand, where he lived, to observe the armed conflict between the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and government troops near the Sino-Burmese border.
Mahn Nyein Maung made the trip in his capacity as a central committee member of the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC), an alliance of ethnic armed groups, said Nai Hang Thar, the UNFC secretary.
Aung Kyaw Zaw, a Burmese observer on the Sino-Burmese border, said he heard that Mahn Nyein Maung had been put on a passenger flight to Rangoon in late July.
However, KNU central committee member Saw Ah Toe said he could not confirm that Mahn Nyein Maung had been sent to Burma.
“If he has been sent back, there’s no doubt that he is being punished very severely,” said Saw Ah Toe.
Mahn Nyein Maung was a former underground activist inside Burma. In 1960, he was arrested and sent to the Coco Islands, an infamous detention center for political prisoners located about 300 km off the Burmese mainland in the Indian Ocean.
Mahn Nyein Maung and two other political prisoners, Mahn Aung Kyi and Aung Ngwe, managed to escape from the island by floating across the Indian Ocean clutching driftwood. However, they were rearrested when they reached the Burmese mainland.
It was the only known escape from the prison, known as “Burma’s Devils Island”.