YANGON — Kachin peace advocate Nang Pu was released from prison on Friday after serving four months for defaming the Myanmar military.
“I am not happy because I was released alone and not with the others,” said Nang Pu, director of the Htoi Gender and Development Foundation and founder of the Kachin State Women’s Network.
Two of her colleagues are still serving their six-month sentences.
The Myitkyina Township court sentenced all three — Nang Pu, lawyer Lum Zawng, and Zau Jat of the Kachin National Social Development Association — to six months and fines of 500,000 kyats ($333) on Dec. 7.
And although they all appealed to the Kachin State court, the judge approved only Nang Pu’s application and reduced her sentence by two months on Mar. 29.
Lt. Col. Myo Min Oo of the military’s Northern Command filed criminal defamation complaints against the trio under Article 500 of the Penal Code on May 8 for their participation in protests a month earlier. The protests were held in Myitkyina, the Kachin State capital, to urge the government to help more than 3,000 locals trapped in the Tanai area of the state who had fled fighting between the Kachin Independence Army and the military. The fighting displaced more than 6,000 villagers in all in Tanai, about half of whom were able to reach shelters in urban areas.
Nang Pu told The Irrawaddy that her health deteriorated severely in prison.
“I feel sorry for my colleagues and I will continue working for their release,” she said.
She added that Myanmar’s judicial system needed to be reformed for the country to achieve peace and to help build a democratic state.
“We have done nothing wrong. These charges should not have been filed in the first place, but they did it and sent us to prison,” she said.
The three were recognized by the Kachin community both in the state and in exile in February for their commitment to supporting the Kachin and their efforts to promote justice and human rights.
The Myitkyina News Journal also honored them with its MNJ Award last month for their commitment to community service.
In February, Nang Pu herself was honored with the 2019 Schuman Award along with two other human rights advocates from Myanmar for “helping some of the most marginalized members of the conflict-affected communities in Kachin State.”
The U.S. Embassy honored her with its annual Women of Change award last month.
Nang Pu said she would continue her work on gender equality and female participation in the peace process and to support displaced women.