RANGOON — A court in the Arakan State capital of Sittwe has denied a bail request from prominent human rights and environmental activist Khine Myo Htun, who was arrested last month and faces charges for accusing the Burma Army of committing war crimes in the state.
Khine Myo Htun, deputy-spokesperson for the Arakan Liberation Party (ALP), was arrested on July 25 in Sittwe on charges of sedition and incitement under sections 505(b) and 505(c) of Burma’s Penal Code.
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.
The charges against Khine Myo Htun were filed by Lt-Col Tin Naing Tun from the Sittwe-based Regional Operations Command of the Burma Army on May 5.
The Arakan Liberation Army, the military wing of the ALP, was one of eight non-state ethnic armed groups that signed the nationwide ceasefire agreement (NCA) last October with the former government.
Oo Kyaw Thein, the defendant’s lawyer, told The Irrawaddy they requested bail because arresting Khine Myo Htun was the same as punishing him before the court had made a decision regarding the case.
He added that Khine Myo Htun was a representative from one of the NCA-signatory groups who attended the Union Peace Conference under the previous administration.
The court has said the case is related to the stability of the state and that the accused has failed to appear at two previous court hearings. Oo Kyaw Thein said his client was traveling at that time, prior to his arrest.
United States based advocacy organization Earth Rights International (ERI) called for all charges against Khine Myo Htun to be dropped on Friday.
“The use of Sections 505 (b) and (c) and the targeting of only Khine Myo Htun demonstrates a clear attempt to silence human rights advocacy and deter activists from exposing ongoing violations,” Ka Hsaw Wa, executive director of ERI, stated in a press release.
He added that the investigation that needs to happen is one that looks into allegations that the army has committed abuses against civilians in Arakan State.
The activist is currently detained at a prison in Sittwe. His next court hearing is on September 2. If he is found guilty, he could face up to two years imprisonment and a fine.