Activist’s Prison Term Rises to More Than a Decade

By Zarni Mann 11 September 2014

RANGOON — A township court in Rangoon has extended the prison term of democracy activist Htin Kyaw to more than a decade, despite calls for mercy from an international human rights group.

During his final hearing at Shwe Pyi Thar Township Court on Thursday, Htin Kyaw, a leader of the Movement for Democracy Current Force (MDCF), was sentenced to two more years in prison under Section 505 (b) of the Penal Code for “public mischief,” after he demonstrated against President Thein Sein’s government.

The prominent activist has staged a series of protests this year condemning the government and calling for respect of land rights. He was arrested in May and has faced charges in 11 townships courts across the city, not only for causing public mischief but also for demonstrating without permission, in violation of the Peaceful Assembly Act.

“In total, he has been sentenced to 11 years and four months,” his wife, Than Than Maw, told The Irrawaddy. “There are two more trials to face, and we haven’t decided yet whether to appeal.”

Htin Kyaw is currently being held at Insein Prison and is set to stand trial in Kyauktada and Hlaing townships for the same charges.

Meanwhile, Amnesty International is urging the government to end its “persecution” of the activist.

“The relentless efforts of the [Burmese] authorities to silence a critical voice must end immediately,” Rupert Abbott, Amnesty’s deputy Asia-Pacific director, said in a statement on Wednesday. “The charges Ko Htin Kyaw is facing … are farcical. He has done nothing but peacefully express his opinions—he is a prisoner of conscience and should be released immediately and unconditionally.”

Under the former military regime, Htin Kyaw was sentenced to 12 years and six months in prison for protesting against the government’s hike in fuel prices. He was freed in an amnesty after Thein Sein’s administration took power in 2011.

Again, in 2013, he was arrested and sentenced to six months in prison after leading a land rights protest in Mayangone Township, also in Rangoon. He was released under another presidential amnesty four months later.