Myat Nu Khaing, an independent candidate contesting the Lower House constituency of Phyu in Pegu Division in the coming election, was arrested on Friday over her alleged participation in a protest outside the Chinese Embassy in Rangoon last year, according to her lawyer and supporters.
“She was taken during election campaigning in Phyu by police from Dagon Township on Friday,” said Tin Aye, a representative of the candidate’s campaign organizing committee. “The police sent her to Insein prison right away.”
Myat Nu Khaing briefly appeared in court in Rangoon Division’s Dagon Township on Monday.
“We don’t understand why the case has reemerged after one year and in the middle of a campaigning period. We will do the campaigning for her, however. We doubt if her arrest will cause her to lose the election,” Tin Aye said.
On Dec. 29 last year, nearly 100 people marched to the Chinese Embassy with the intention of laying wreathes in tribute to Khin Win, a woman in her 50s who was shot dead by police on Dec. 22 during a protest at Letpadaung in Sagaing Division against a controversial Chinese-backed copper mine.
Police blockaded the marchers before they could reach the Chinese mission and the two sides clashed after protesters attempted to breach the barricades.
In May, six activists, including prominent human rights advocate Naw Ohn Hla, were sentenced to four years and four months prison in relation to the protest.
According to Myat Nu Khaing’s lawyer, Than Zaw Aung, the parliamentary hopeful is facing a number of charges including under Article 18 of the Peaceful Assembly Law for protesting without permission and articles 147, 353 and 505(b) of Burma’s Penal Code.
These articles outlaw rioting; assault or use of criminal force against a public servant; and making statements with intent to cause “fear or alarm,” respectively.
The same charges were brought against the six activists sentenced in May.
“We tried to get bail but the court refused,” Than Zaw Aung told The Irrawaddy. “Her arrest might be for political reasons ahead of the election [since] the case just resurfaced now. The election commission has already recognized that she has no criminal record and registered her as a candidate. We have to question the authorities, why now?”
Myat Nu Khaing faces stiff competition in Phyu, a small town of 65,000 people, including from parliamentary speaker and former ruling party chairman Shwe Mann.
Ko Ko Kyaw, a former deputy director-general of the President’s Office, is also running for the sought-after seat alongside candidates from the National League for Democracy, the National Democratic Force, the National Unity Party and the Myanmar Farmers Development Party.