RANGOON — Rangoon’s Dagon Township Court on Tuesday laid an additional charge on seven people who participated in a protest against the fatal police shooting of a farmer in central Burma.
Of the seven facing charges, one remains at large while the remaining six have been detained on other related charges since their arrest on Dec. 30. The new charge—under the controversial Article 18 of Burma’s Peaceful Assembly Law—has been added to the roster of six previous offences for which they were accused.
Nearly 100 protesters marched through downtown Rangoon on Dec. 29 to lay wreaths in front of the Chinese Embassy a week after 56-year-old villager Khin Win was shot dead by police during a land rights protest near the Letpadaung Copper mining project in Sagaing Division.
Police foiled the demonstrators’ attempts to reach the embassy and arrested three individuals the following day for their involvement. The others were apprehended at later dates.
The six detained activists will apply for bail, according to lawyer Robert San Aung, who told The Irrawaddy that their trial has been postponed twice because one of the accused has eluded capture.
The accused face various charges including use of assault or criminal force to deter a public servant from duty. They have also been charged with incitement under a broadly defined clause that outlaws speech or materials that could “alarm the public.”
The charges were brought by officers of several different townships, which Robert San Aung has denounced before as a tactic used by local authorities to pile on charges when demonstrators pass through more than one jurisdiction on their course. In this case, police from Kyauktada, Lanmadaw, Latha and Pabedan townships have all taken action against the activists.
“They sue them with a variety of charges for just one incident,” said Robert San Aung. “It shouldn’t be like that.”
Robert San Aung said that his clients could face up to 25 years in prison if found guilty of all of the charges they currently face.
The group is currently being held in Insein Prison and is scheduled to return to court on Jan. 27 for trial.