Court Rejects Bid by Myanmar’s Kayah State Govt to Increase Activists’ Jail Terms

By Zaw Zaw Htwe 30 December 2019

YANGON—The Loikaw District Court in Kayah State on Dec. 27 rejected an appeal by the state government seeking harsher sentences for six ethnic Karenni youths jailed for calling senior state officials political criminals and traitors to the Karenni.

In November, the Kayah State government filed the appeal seeking increased sentences after a lower court jailed six ethnic Karenni youths for six months for accusing state government officials being enemies of ethnic unity.

The six Karenni youths—Ko Myo Hlaing Win, Dee De, Khun Thomas, Khu Reedu, Pyar Lay and Khu Khu Peh Kay—were sentenced to six months in prison with labor by the Loikaw Township Court after issuing a statement in March that allegedly declared that the state’s chief minister and minister of planning and finance were traitors to the Karenni people.

They were sentenced under Section 10 of Article 8(d) of the law Protecting the Privacy and Security of Citizens.

Khu Khu Peh Kay told The Irrawaddy on Monday that the district court rejected the state government’s appeal, ruling that the township court’s sentences were suitable and correct.

At the same time, the district court also rejected the Karenni youths’ appeal asking that their convictions be overturned.

”We condemn the state government for playing with the judiciary. They sue us whenever they wish, and withdrew lawsuits again in a short time,” said Khu Khu Peh Kay.

He was released from prison on Nov. 25, as he was arrested earlier than the five other Karenni youths. The remaining five were released on Dec. 13 after serving their full terms.

Hundreds of Karenni have accused the chief minister of acting like a dictator and overseeing raids, lawsuits and violence against residents who oppose the erection of a statue of General Aung San in Loikaw.

The Kayah State government put up the statue in February 2019, ignoring protests from local Karenni residents.

In their statement, the six youths also accused the state government of abusing its power by allocating over 140 million kyats (about US$95,000) of the state’s road and telecommunications budget on the statue without informing the state parliament.