RANGOON — Activists commemorating International Human Rights Day on Thursday say that authorities have blocked plans to stage events in Rangoon and Naypyidaw.
Aung Zaw Oo of Human Rights Defenders and Promoters (HRDP), who was the co-organizer of a planned Human Rights Day event in Rangoon, said that he received a letter signed by Rangoon Chief Minister Myint Swe on Tuesday night, rejecting an application to hold an event at St. Michael’s Anglican Church in Kyimindaing Township.
“We were banned and they also told the priest from the church not to accept any gatherers for a celebration there,” Aung Zaw Oo told The Irrawaddy. “So we will change the venue and hold the event at our headquarters in Kyimindaing.”
He said that organizers requested permission to stage the event on Nov. 24, with the divisional government waiting two weeks before refusing permission, despite the government’s own regulations stipulating that any request for a public gathering must be answered within 48 hours.
“It seems as if they would like our celebration to be canceled. I think the words ‘human rights’ still frighten them and they don’t want the crowds gather and celebrate human rights,” Aung Zaw Oo added.
A similar celebration planned in Naypyidaw was also blocked on Thursday morning, reversing the permission granted by township authorities the day before.
Organizers say they were also warned by authorities not to stage any events.
“They said that we needed to make a request at least 10 days before the event and these kind of activities are banned in the Union Territory,” said organizer Zin May Lin. “They said if we continue, they will take action against us. They are violating our human rights.”
She added that organizers had planned to distribute reading material and run cleanup activities around public buildings in Naypyidaw, but were told to stop by authorities when they began picking up litter outside a hospital.
Aung Myo Min, the executive director of Equality Myanmar, said that the refusal to allow either event to go ahead was yet another demonstration of the lack of respect for human rights by authorities in both cities.