EarthRights International (ERI) called on Thursday for the immediate release of prominent environmental activist Khine Myo Htun, who will appear for a court hearing on Friday.
Khine Myo Htun, deputy-spokesperson for the Arakan Liberation Party (ALP) was arrested last week in Arakan State’s capital Sittwe, after being accused of sedition and incitement under Burma’s severe penal code. He faces charges for accusing the Burma Army of committing war crimes in the state.
In its statement on Thursday, United States based advocacy organization ERI said that Khine Myo Htun’s arrest was politically motivated.
Ka Hsaw Wa, co-founder and executive director of ERI said in the statement that the Burma Army had once again demonstrated its ruthlessness and unwillingness to change by going after activists who dared to expose its abuses, despite the introduction of a new democratic government.
“It is disgraceful that human rights activists continue to be persecuted for exercising their democratic rights in a country led by a former prisoner of conscience,” he added.
The Arakan Liberation Army, the military wing of Khine Myo Htun’s ALP party, was one of eight non-state ethnic armed groups that signed the nationwide ceasefire agreement (NCA) in October with the former government.
The outspoken activist was charged under sections 505(b) and 505(c) of Burma’s Penal Code – for sedition and incitement respectively. The charges were filed by Lt Col Tin Naing Tun from the Sittwe-based Regional Operations Command of the Burma Army on May 5.
Khine Myo Htun is a former student at ERI’s school for human rights and environmental activists in Chiang Mai, Thailand. He also worked with Arakan Oil Watch, an environmental and human rights group. He is the co-founder of Natural Resources for the People and a board member of the Arakan Natural Resources and Environmental Network.
In April, the ALP incited controversy when it accused the Burma Army of violating the Geneva Conventions by targeting civilians for forced portering and torture.
ERI, however, said that it had reviewed the audio and video evidence backing torture and forced portering allegations against the army and deemed that it was credible. The rights advocacy group said it would support Khine Myo Htun’s legal case.