RANGOON — An activist in Mandalay said he is facing criminal charges for organizing an unauthorized protest calling for an inquiry into the recent killing of a journalist, while two activists in Prome said they were likely to be charged for holding a similar protest.
Thein Aung Myint, a Mandalay-based activist with the Movement for Democracy Current Forces, said police summoned him on Wednesday to tell him that was being charged under Article 18 of the Peaceful Assembly, which bans holding an unauthorized protest and can result in a prison terms of up to six months.
“They told me that they will sue others protesters too. But they charged me first since they know me well. They even asked me to identify and name other protesters but I refused,” he told The Irrawaddy.
Thein Aung Myint said he had sought police permission for the protest on Monday, but his request was turned down. The protest had been held regardless and some 200 people showed up to call for an investigation into the recent killing of freelance journalist Aung Kyaw Naing, also known as Par Gyi, by the military.
Protesters in Prome Township, Pegu division, said local police had said they would sue them for holding a similar, unauthorized protest.
Thant Sin Htet from Prome-based Nattalin Public Service Network said he and a lawyer named Myint Htay held a protest against the killing of journalist Par Gyi on Sunday without asking police permission.
“During our protest, a police officer came and said he would file a lawsuit under Article 18 against us,” Thant Sin Htet said, adding that he believed that citizens should have the right to hold a protest freely.
“I don’t think we, citizens, need to ask the permission to demonstrate,” he said. “We just want the public to know about the case of journalist’s killing, which shows that there is still oppression and that the country’s democratic transition is going backwards.”
On Wednesday, police did grant permission for a protest in Prome and some 100 people gathered to express their anger over the killing.
Rangoon Kyauktada Township police on Monday had filed a lawsuit against Moe Thway, an activist with Generation Wave, because he helped organize an unauthorized protest in front of City Hall on Sunday calling for an inquiry into the killing.
Police told the activist on Tuesday that more people could face charges over the protest, which was attended by some 100 people, including leaders of the 88 Generation Students Peace and Open Society.
Kyauktada Township police could not be reached for comment the case on Friday.