CHIANG MAI, Thailand — Police in Karenni State say they will sue three more local men this week for allegedly violating Article 19 of the Peaceful Assembly Law by leading a protest on Jan. 5 against the prosecution of five other protesters under the same law.
The five were convicted by the Loikaw Township court on Friday and sentenced to 20 days in prison for failing to inform authorities of their plans to demonstrate on Dec. 22. They staged the demonstration to protest the Tatmadaw’s alleged murder of a civilian and three soldiers of the Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP) on December 20.
Khun Bee Du, chairman of the Kayan National Party, Khun A-Than, a central committee member of the Kayan New Generation Youth, and Khu Tu Reh, chairman of the Karenni State Farmers Union, led hundreds of people in the Jan. 5 protest in Loikaw to show their solidarity with the five men.
Loikaw Police Captain Win Htay told The Irrawaddy on Thursday that the protesters violated the Peaceful Assembly Law and that the three leaders would be sued after he sought legal advise from the public prosecutor.
Because the protesters did not inform authorities about their plans 48 hours in advance, the captain said, he would “act in accordance with the law to sue the protesters within 15 days of the protest.”
Capt. Win Htay said he planned to meet with the three protest leaders on Friday as part of his investigation.
Khun Bee Du told The Irrawaddy that the police captain visited the three of them Wednesday night to inform them of the pending lawsuit.
“The authorities must also work to find justice in the killing of the civilian and three KNPP soldiers on December 20, just as they take legal actions against whoever violates the law, including us,” he said.
Khun Bee Du said the protesters were well aware they could face legal action but went ahead with the event to press for justice in the case of the alleged murders by the Tatmadaw.
Nearly a month after the alleged murders, a complaint has yet to be lodged with the Loikaw police. The case remains under investigation by an internal tribunal of the Tatmadaw lead by Brigadier General Aung Khine Soe.
The KNPP claims that its soldiers and a civilian were executed during a Dec. 20 raid on the KNPP’s camp in Loikaw by troops from the Tatmadaw’s Regional Operations Command. It claims the military killed the four men at the camp, removed the bodies and burned them back at their own base.
The Tatmadaw claims the four were killed in a firefight during the raid.