Anti-Statue Activists Ignore Police Summons in Loikaw

By Lawi Weng 20 May 2019

Loikaw police are searching for six ethnic rights activists who failed to surrender to authorities on Monday to face legal action over their opposition to a controversial statue of General Aung San in the Kayah State capital, rights activists said.

The state government last week opened cases against Khu Chwe Pyel Kay, Khu Reedu, Pyar Lay, Khun Thomas, Myo Hlaing Win and Dee De, who led protests against the controversial, state government-backed statue of Gen. Aung San.

Dee De told The Irrawaddy on Monday that police called the six activists and ordered them to report to a police station for arrest.

“The police just called us by phone [at 1 p.m.] and told us to come and [surrender ourselves] for arrest. We told them that we will come to face the charges soon, but we requested them not to threaten our families,” Dee De said. “They told us that if we [reported to] the police station, they’d agree not to make problems for our families.”

According to activists, police are now searching for the six right activists, some of whom have gone into hiding.

Dee De said the township authority told his family on Monday morning that police would come to arrest him soon, and that the Home Affairs Ministry’s Special Branch police also searched the home of Khu Chwe Pyel Kay.

The police were not available for comments on Monday.

The activists issued a statement on March 25 describing Kayah State Chief Minister L Phaung Sho and Deputy Planning and Finance Minister U Maw Maw as criminals who had betrayed the Karenni people. The activists also accused them of abusing their power.

The state government took no action at the time the statement was issued. Activists described the legal cases, which follow the collapse of negotiations between local activists and the state government on May 14, as “revenge” and as being aimed at trying to intimidate opponents of the statue into dropping their protests.

U Thet Naung, acting on behalf of the Kayah State government opened cases against the six on May 16 under a law meant to protect the privacy and security of citizens. U Thet Naung is deputy director of the Kayah State government.

“They are trying to pressure us now,” said Dee De, adding that more protests will come soon.

Khun Thomas, one of the six, echoed that sentiment. He said the protests would only intensify if the Kayah State government continues to arrest activists.

“Their action will only make things worse,” he said.