The Irrawaddy

Activists Jailed for a Year for Protesting on Behalf of Ex-Child Soldier for Tatmadaw

Ko Naung Naung leaves the court on Tuesday. / Aung Kyaw Htet

MON STATE — A court in Yangon Division’s Dagon Seikkan Township yesterday sentenced two rights activists to a year in prison for protesting on behalf of a jailed former child soldier, their lawyer said.

Ko Naung Naung and Daw Lay Lay were jailed for participating in a protest in support of Aung Ko Htwe, a former child soldier for the Myanmar Army (or Tatmadaw) who was jailed for speaking to the media about his experiences.

The two activists were charged under the Penal Code’s Article 505 (b), which prohibits defamation against the state, and Article 153, which proscribes provocation with intent to cause a riot. They received a one-year term for violating Article 505 and six months for the Article 153 conviction, lawyer U Zayar Aung said. However, the final sentence was only one year because the court combined the two cases, he said.

About a dozen people protested in support of Aung Ko Htwe shortly after he was charged over his comments to the media. They shouted slogans supporting the former child soldier in front of the court during his weekly appearances, but U Zayar Aung denied the two activists’ words were aimed at the authorities.

The two rights activists told the court that they were not on the list of protesters submitted to the local police station prior to the demonstration in accordance with the Peaceful Assembly Law, but their lawyer later said this statement was wrong, and therefore they were punished.

“They would be free today if they had said they were on the list of protesters, but they made a mistake. If they had acknowledged that they were on the list, the court would not have punished them,” U Zayar Aung said.

Ko Noung Noung and Daw Lay Lay were detained in January. The eight months they have already spent behind bars will count toward their sentence, leaving them another four months to serve, the lawyer said.