More Kachin Youths Charged Under Peaceful Assembly Law

By Lawi Weng 10 December 2018

Three more Kachin youths have been charged under the Peaceful Assembly Act for holding a protest without permission from the authorities, in Myitkyina, the capital of Kachin State, according to local sources.

The two men Brang Mai and Seng Hkum Awng and one woman Sut Seng Htoi, appeared in court today for the first day of their trial.

“We wanted justice, therefore we held a protest. We did not intend to get benefits from someone. We just wanted justice. We did protest, but they told us they are charging us for not asking permission,” said Brang Mai at the courthouse today.

“From [the police’s] point of view, we were not satisfied with the court sentencing our friends and we protested about it. But our point of view is that we want to get justice, therefore we protested for it,” he said.

When the judge asked the three youths today whether they were guilty or not, according to Brang Mai, they all said they were not guilty.

All three activists were granted bail and will continue to fight for justice from outside the court.

The youths were charged on Friday for holding a protest, alongside many other protestors, which started at the courthouse in Myitkyina and moved to Manau Park.

They were protesting the sentencing and fining on the same day of three Kachin activists who were convicted for holding demonstrations earlier in the year calling on the Tatmadaw (Myanmar Army) to release Kachin refugees who were trapped in the jungle during fighting in Tanai Township between the Tatmadaw and the KIO. The court sentenced them to six months’ imprisonment and fines of 500,000 kyats ($320) each.

Sut Seng Htoi, a women’s rights activist and one of the three charged on Friday, told reporters in front of the court today, “The court’s sentencing [of the three activists on Friday] was a big punishment. We did not expect they would do that. It was unacceptable for us. We all know our three friends did nothing wrong, therefore we protested about the injustice.”

The authorities use the law to suppress rights activists in order to silence the voice of the people, she said.

“We know their law is unfair, therefore we have to fight it. We will keep fighting until we have our rights in our hands,” said Brang Mai.

According to Brang Mai, U Myint Moe, the police officer who is pressing charges against them, said at the court today that his police will arrest as many of those who protest without permission as possible.

When The Irrawaddy tried to call U Myint Moe for comment, a police officer at the station said he was unavailable.

The next court hearing for the three youths will take place on Dec. 13 when witnesses will testify against claims that the rights activists violated the law.