Activist’s Hunger Strike Enters 2nd Week Over Ex-Presidents Bill

By Yen Saning 11 January 2016

RANGOON — The prominent jailed activist Naw Ohn Hla remains on a hunger strike that is about to enter its second week, with the prominent activist protesting a proposed law that would grant ex-presidents sweeping immunity regarding legal repercussions for actions undertaken in office.

The 53-year-old is reportedly in good health but is refusing even to drink water or shower.

She has been frequently imprisoned over the past two decades for her advocacy on causes ranging from peace and justice to the release of Burma’s political prisoners. She is currently serving time for a Dec. 29, 2014 protest in front of the Chinese Embassy in Rangoon following the death of a woman at the controversial Letpadaung copper mine about one week prior.

She was sentenced last year to six years and two months’ imprisonment for that protest, on charges including Article 18 of the Peaceful Assembly Law and Article 505(b) of the Burmese Penal Code. She and several fellow protesters had urged the government to carry out an investigation into the killing of Khin Win, who was shot dead on Dec. 22, 2014, by police at the Chinese-back mine in Monywa, Sagaing Division.

Min Nay Htoo, a spokesperson for the Democracy and Peace Women Network, which Naw Ohn Hla cofounded, told The Irrawaddy that other rights activists had visited her on Friday, reporting that her eyes appeared sunken but that she otherwise looked to be in good health.

“We were forbidden from meeting her by prison authorities at first. We had to submit a letter and then were allowed to meet. She is still in a good condition as of January 8. She stopped drinking water on January 5 [and continues this] through today,” he said.

“Prison authorities asked us to make her cease the hunger strike, but we told them that because she is doing this of her own free will, we can’t stop her,” he said.

Naw Ohn Hla’s hunger strike is being staged against the Former President’s Security bill, which was approved by Parliament’s Lower House on Dec. 31, and is likely to be taken up by the upper chamber this week. Critics of the legislation say it would deal a blow to ensuring accountability for former holders of Burma’s highest elected office.

“She [Naw Ohn Hla] said she will continue hunger strike till she cannot stand,” Min Nay Htoo said.