Activist Gets 6 Months for Protest Against Journalist’s Killing

By Zarni Mann 23 April 2015

MANDALAY — A Mandalay court on Thursday sentenced an imprisoned activist to a further six months of detention for staging an unauthorized protest against the Burma Army’s killing of a journalist last year.

Mandalay’s Aung Myay Thar Zan Township Court found Thein Aung Myint guilty of violating Article 18 of the Peaceful Assembly Law and handed down the maximum punishment of six months’ imprisonment.

In October, Thein Aung Myint organized a protest without approval from local authorities that called for justice in the case of the killing of freelance journalist Aung Kyaw Naing (also known as Par Gyi) by soldiers in Mon State, who were fighting a Karen rebel group.

In late March, Thein Aung Myint was already sentenced to six months in prison, together with his wife Khet Khet Tin, for organizing an unauthorized “candle light” protest against frequent power outages in Mandalay.

The activist couple is being detained at Oh-Bo Prison in Burma’s second biggest city.

While he was led out of the court, Thein Aung Myint told reporters that Burma’s judicial system was broken as it had sentenced him to prison for a peaceful protest, while no one has been arrested for the killing of the journalist.

“Until now, in the case of Ko Par Gyi no justice has been found. But I, who demand for justice for him, was sentenced with the highest penalties,” he said. “This shows the judicial system of our country lacks justice.”

An inquiry by the Myanmar Human Rights Commission into the death of the journalist referred the case to a civilian court, but so far no court has taken up the case.

Thein Aung Myint’s lawyer, Ywat Nu Aung, said he would not appeal against the sentence as, “My client does not believe in this judicial system, so he has no willingness to try for an appeal.”

The lawyer said the sentence had been too harsh and that Thein Aung Myint’s demonstration should have been allowed as it falls under freedom of expression.

Lwan Moe Aung, a court information officer, said the court handed down the maximum punishment because Thein Aung Myint supposedly had also insulted government and army leaders during his unauthorized demonstration.

“During his protest, he stated the name of president and army commander-in-chief as just Thein Sein and Min Aung Hlaing [without titles], which is impolite. And he also said: ‘Get out you power-hungry lunatics,’” according to Lwan Moe Aung.

“That’s why the court found him guilty; his unauthorized protest was not only demanding justice for Ko Par Gyi, but also insulting the country’s leaders.”