Burmese authorities have arrested up to 25 people, including a prominent critic of the authoritarian government and an Associated Press correspondent, U.S. officials and other diplomats said Saturday.
The arrests came less than a week after Sein Lwin, a former army general known for ruthless suppression of dissidents, replaced Ne Win as president and chairman of Burma's sole political party.In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Nancy Beck said U.S. officials in Burma "understand that perhaps as many as 25 people have been arrested within the last 24 hours."
She said those arrested included retired brigadier general Aung Gyi, a longtime critic of Ne Win's authoritarian regime.
Beck and Western diplomats in Burma said AP correspondent Sein Win was also among the arrested.
In a brief message telexed to the Associated Press bureau in Bangkok, the journalist's family said: "Daddy has been taken away. He won't be available to answer your queries." The message was received at 12:58 a.m.
The 70-year-old Aung Gyi, once regarded as a probable successor to Ne Win, had written a series of letters attacking economic and political conditions in Burma. He had targeted Sein Lwin, criticizing his role in the bloody suppression of student protests.
Analysts in Burma had predicted Aung Gyi would be silenced in a society where public dissent has been stamped out swiftly in the past.
The 66-year-old correspondent, formerly publisher of the English-language daily The Guardian, was jailed for three years in Burma in the 1960s in connection with his journalistic activities. He joined The Associated Press shortly after his release in 1968.
In 1963, he was awarded the Golden Pen of Freedom by the Paris-based International Federation of Journalists for his work in fostering a free press in Burma. He also served on the executive board of the International Press Institute and founded Burma's first national news agency.
Aung Gyi, a former military colleague of Ne Win, sided with the former leader during the 1962 military coup that overthrew the civilian government.
But the pragmatic, liberal Aung Gyi quarreled with Ne Win's more radically socialist supporters over plans to nationalize the economy.