Kachin Men Charged Under Peaceful Assembly Law
By Nyein Nyein 13 June 2017
The Myitkyina Township court charged three Kachin men on Tuesday under Article 19 of the Peaceful Assembly Law for leading a commemoration of the six-year anniversary of renewed Kachin conflict last Friday.
The three defendants—Hkawn Zau Jat, Labang Gam Awng, and Khun Seng—were each fined 30,000 kyats, according to Labang Gam Awng, after being question by police on Monday evening.
“We chose to pay a fine of 30,000 kyats rather than a prison sentence of 15 days,” Labang Gam Awng said. Myitkyina Police Station No. 1 acted as plaintiff in the case, according to the defendants.
Last Friday, more than 7,000 residents and internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Myitkyina and Maingmaw townships attended a prayer ceremony to mark the anniversary from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Manau Park.
Hkawn Zau Jat said to The Irrawaddy on Tuesday morning: “We were told that the IDPs from Waingmaw and Myitkyina walked to Manau Park without permission.”
“But we had lots of people participating and we didn’t have enough funds for vehicles from the IDP camps,” he said.
“The people walked to the park and it looked like they were marching, so were charged with Article 19 [of the Peaceful Assembly Act],” said Labang Gam Awng.
Police also accused them of using slogans not pre-approved by authorities, including one asking Myanmar military to immediately stop offensives.
“This [the commemoration] is the voices of IDPs [calling for the end of the war], as the Myanmar Tatmadaw made offensives in the region and they have been displaced,” said Hkawn Zau Jat.
Organizers said they informed Myitkyina Township administrative officials by letter of their intention to pray for the end of the war, but did not specifically seek the approval from the township police as they believed security forces were under the local administration.
In October last year, Lungjung Tu Raw was charged under the peaceful assembly law for using slogans which were not pre-approved during a protest calling for an end to Tatmadaw offensives in Kachin State.
More than 100,000 people have been displaced due to war in Kachin State, which resumed in June 2011 after a 17-year ceasefire between the Tatmadaw and the ethnic Kachin Independence Army.
In the first two weeks of this month, several thousand Kachin fled their homes in Tanai Township.