NAYPYIDAW — Police charged 51 labor rights protestors on Thursday under four separate charges, including Article 505(b) of the Burmese Penal Code, which can carry a two-year sentence for disturbing the public order.
The article prohibits circulating statements that could cause fear or alarm to the public or upset public tranquility; under the former government, it was criticized as being a catchall punishment for anything deemed as dissent.
The 100 workers were marching from a plywood factory in the Sagaing Industrial Zone, following an unresolved labor dispute and failed negotiations with Myanmar Veneer Plywood Private Ltd. (MVPPL). Protestors began marching from Sagaing Division to Naypyidaw in late April, in an effort to meet with Burma’s President Htin Kyaw, whom they believed would find a favorable resolution.
The workers were also charged under articles 143, 145 and 157 of the penal code, which include participating in an unlawful assembly, refusing to obey police and causing disorder.
There was not enough space to detain all the protestors at the police station in Tatkon Township, so they were sent to a jail in Yamaethin Township for security reasons, said Naypyidaw Police Col Ko Ko Aung.
Authorities released 23 of the detainees and handed them over to the Sagaing Township administrator and district police force, according to Tatkon Township administrator Yi Mon.
Yi Mon said they asked each of the detainees how they wanted to proceed.
“Some said they wanted to go home, others wanted to stay and face their charges,” he said. “We have fulfilled their wishes, and sent back the people who wanted to return home.”
Protestors were arrested on Wednesday in Tatkon Township as they marched to Naypyidaw.