Activists Found Guilty for Marking Karen Martyrs’ Day in Myanmar

By Zaw Zaw Htwe 2 October 2019

The three Karen activists, including the Karen Women’s Union chair Naw Ohn Hla, were sentenced to 15 days in prison by Kyauktada Township’s Court on Oct. 2 for an unlawful gathering on Karen Martyrs’ Day in Yangon.

However, the three were released because they had already been held in prison for more than two weeks.

Naw Ohn Hla, Saw Albert Cho and Sa Thein Zaw Min were charged in September for not complying with an order to delete the word “martyr” from this year’s commemoration.

The authorities have banned “martyr” in reference to Karen revolutionary leader Saw Ba U Gyi, who was murdered on Aug. 12, 1950. His death is commemorated annually as Karen Martyrs’ Day.

More than 100 people led by Naw Ohn Hla, Saw Albert Cho and Sa Thein Zaw Min marked the 69th anniversary in front of the city hall in Kyauktada Township, Yangon, last month.

On Wednesday Naw Ohn Hla told the media after the court ruling that they were not satisfied, as they had organized the Karen Martyrs’ Day event legally.

“It is no matter that we were sentenced. I feel sorry that our Karen Martyrs’ day was insulted,” said Naw Ohn Hla.

She said she would appeal to the higher court, saying that she did not violate the law.

“We feel it is unjust that we were sentenced to 15 days in prison and have been labeled as guilty. We didn’t do anything wrong. We stood up for the truth,” Saw Albert Cho told The Irrawaddy.

More than 100 people, including ethnic Karen activists, marched on the court in support of the three defendants and to demand equal rights for ethnic minorities.

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