Activist Su Su Nway Gets 15-Day Jail Term, Walks on Time Served

By San Yamin Aung 17 August 2015

RANGOON — A Pegu Township court on Monday sentenced labor rights advocate Su Su Nway to 15 days in prison with hard labor for trespassing, but the activist was released upon receiving the verdict, as she had already spent more than 20 days in police custody awaiting trial.

The prominent rights activist and former political prisoner was arrested on July 23 by police in Inn Ta Kaw, Pegu Township, in connection with support she had offered to farmers who claim their lands were seized by the military.

About 30 police officers apprehended her while she was traveling on a commuter bus from Pegu Division’s Nyaunglebin Township. She was then transported to Pegu Prison and charged with criminal trespass under Article 447 of Burma’s Penal Code.

“It shows that the authorities are above the law,” Su Su Nway told The Irrawaddy on Monday, referring to the verdict. “There is no rule of law. So I am not satisfied with their sentence.”

Su Su Nway had been involved in the land-grab case since 2013, but had not faced legal action or harassment until late last year, when authorities warned her not to enter the disputed property because it belonged to the military.

Villagers claim that more than 1,000 acres of their farmlands was unfairly confiscated under Burma’s former military regime, a common complaint across the country. Su Su Nway went to the area several times to assess the farmers’ claims and liaise with authorities on their behalf.

But in early June, authorities in Inn Ta Kaw informed Su Su Nway that a trespassing case had been opened against her by a local police captain.

Su Su Nway said she had tried to mediate the dispute between the farmers and the Burma Army in accordance with the 2012 Farmlands Law, but ultimately faced military officials who were unwilling to resolve the issue.

“In September last year, I went to the area since the farmers in Inn Ta Kaw asked me to,” she said. “The military erected a concrete wall that divided one village into two parts. So, the day laborers, students and families who were behind the wall were having difficulties. We recorded pictures of students crossing the wall with ladders. It was spread on social media and [conventional] media. I think they held a grudge [because of it].”

Su Su Nway, who is head of the Myanmar Farmers Union, has long been a prominent voice for labor rights in Burma, and has been jailed several times due to her activism.