Interfaith Activists Sentenced to Two Years Imprisonment With Hard Labor

By Zarni Mann 26 February 2016

MANDALAY — A court in Mandalay’s Chan Aye Thar Zan Township sentenced three interfaith activists to a two-year term of imprisonment with hard labor on Friday for illegally crossing the border, a violation of Burma’s immigration act.

Zaw Zaw Latt, Pwint Phyu Latt and Zaw Win Bo—Muslim and Hindu interfaith activists, according to the advocacy group Fortify Rights—were arrested for photos shared on social media which depicted a visit across the Indo-Burma border to Mizoram State in 2014.

“We visited the border town legally and took those pictures with the approval of both of the immigration officers. We are not guilty of that and our sentence shows there’s no rule of law,” said Zaw Zaw Latt after the court appearance, before being sent to prison.

The 28-year-old from Mandalay has been detained by local police since July 2015, after posting a Facebook photo of himself holding an assault rifle. He was accused of having relations with an illegal organization, the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), and then charged under Burma’s unlawful organization act.

A few days after his arrest, Zaw Zaw Latt’s colleagues, Pwint Phyu Latt and Zaw Win Bo, were also apprehended by the authorities.

Zaw Zaw Latt’s family claimed that the photo was taken when he and his friends went to Kachin State’s conflict zone as part of a charity trip in 2013.

While he was in custody, the immigration office added the charge of illegal border crossing. Zaw Zaw Latt and Pwint Phyu Latt still are awaiting trial for the alleged violation of the unlawful organization act. The court hearing is scheduled for March 9.

Zaw Zaw Latt and Pwint Phyu Latt once worked with the National League for Democracy (NLD), the political party chaired by Aung San Suu Kyi. Zaw Zaw Latt was an information officer for a youth department within the organization.