Bauk Ja, an ethnic Kachin activist and member of the National Democratic Force political party, was arrested on Thursday by police in Myitkyina, Kachin State, where she has been accused of negligent homicide on charges that her party says are politically motivated.
She is charged under Section 304(a) of the Penal Code, causing death by negligence. She is also charged with two counts under the Medical Council Act: Section 41, for possession of medical equipment not registered with the Medical Council, and Section 33, illegal possession of medicine.
Two police officials and a Karmine Township resident will serve as plaintiffs in the case, according to Bauk Ja’s lawyer, Myint Thwin.
Myint Thwin told The Irrawaddy that the charges leveled were based on an incident more than a year ago.
“Bauk Ja was treating sick villagers where there are no physicians available with the medicine,” Myint Thwin said of the activist, whose siblings are a nurse and physician. “There was a person who died, reportedly from her treatment, over a year ago. For that case, she is now accused.”
Bauk Ja will appear before the Hpakant Township court on Tuesday. Her lawyer said if found guilty, she could be sentenced to seven to 10 years’ imprisonment under Section 304(a) alone.
Moe Kyaw, an NDF organizer in Mokaung Township, told The Irrawaddy that Bauk Ja was arrested at their NDF office in Myitkyina and was later transferred from the local police station to two others, first in Mokaung and then on to Hpakant.
Speaking to The Irrawaddy on Friday, Moe Kyaw said Bauk Ja will stand trial in Hpakant Township.
Khin Maung Swe, the head of the NDF, said the party would help Bauk Ja mount the best defense possible, with the NDF leader hinting at potential political motivations for the prosecution.
“This case [the villager’s death] happened before the election and she was accused once over a year ago. But the plaintiff had already closed the case. Our lawyer U Myint Thwin is now representing her.”
He said he would send letters of protest to Union ministers as well as the Kachin State chief minister, if necessary.
Moe Kyaw said they are not being told about the reason she has been detained.
When contacted by The Irrawaddy, Hpakant Township police and a township administration official confirmed the arrest, but did not elaborate on the details surrounding her detention.
Bauk Ja contested the 2010 general election, representing Hpakant Township for the NDF. She lost the bid to former Northern Regional Commander Ohn Myint from the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), and lodged a complaint with the elections court alleging electoral fraud. Ohn Myint is now the minister of cooperatives
Bauk Ja again tried to contest the seat in the April 2012 by-elections, but her would-be constituency was among three seats withdrawn from contention by the government following renewed fighting between the Kachin Independent Army (KIA) and the Burmese military.
Bauk Ja is also an activist who represents farmers whose lands were confiscated by the Yuzana Company, led by current parliamentarian Htay Myint.
Together with the comedian Zarganar and Khin Than Myint from the National League for Democracy (NLD), Bauk Ja met with former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Washington, DC, in February 2012, on a visit sponsored by the US-based National Endowment for Democracy.