By SAW YAN NAING
The recent attack against a National League for Democracy (NLD) leader has raised questions about whether the assault was politically motivated and could be part of a systematic campaign to strike fear into the opposition movement ahead of the 2010 general elections in Burma.
On April 16, an unknown attacker reportedly entered the garden of Thein Nyunt, 65, an NLD spokesperson and elected Member of Parliament in the 1990 elections. His family members said that he was beaten with a baton and suffered injuries to his forehead, back and hands.
Nyan Win, head spokesperson for the NLD, told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday that he doubts the assault against a veteran member of the party was a random attack.
“We do not know who is behind this incident. But, when NLD leaders and members are attacked like this, it forces us to consider that there may be a systematic campaign to suppress us,” said Nyan Win.
He added that attacks against opposition members were not the solution to the political conflict in Burma.
Thein Nyunt is not the first NLD leader to be physically attacked and hospitalized. Since 2003, at least 11 physical assaults against NLD members or political activists linked to the opposition have been reported, including an attack against Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi.
In May 2003, Suu Kyi’s convoy was attacked in Depayin in Sagaing Division by a group of thugs, thought to be members of the Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA) and its militia, the Swan Ah-shin.
In 2006, Thet Naing Oo, an activist who actively participated in the national uprising in 1988, died after he was beaten by riot police.
In June 2007, Than Lwin, an elected member of parliament, was punched in the face by an unknown assailant wearing steel “knuckle-dusters.” His nose was broken and he later lost one of his eyes.
In March 2008, prominent social activist, Myint Aye, who is a leading member of the Human Rights Defenders and Promoters group, was beaten up and required five stitches.
And last April, Tin Yu, a member of the NLD in Hlaing Tharyar Township, was attacked by unknown assailants carrying batons as he walked home from a bus stop. He was admitted to hospital where he required 50 stitches in his face.