Mandalay Woman Sent to Prison After Public Prayer Service

By Nobel Zaw 8 January 2015

RANGOON — Tin Mar Ye, a Mandalay woman involved in a prayer service held in support of a detained activist, has been sent to prison under Article 18 of the Peaceful Assembly Law.

The 51-year-old participated in a public prayer with 50 other people at the Maha Myat Muni Pagoda in Mandalay last September, calling for the release of Phyu Hnin Htwe, a member of the All Burma Federation of Student Unions who was at that time detained under accusations of involvement in the kidnapping of two Chinese contractors working at the controversial Letpadaung copper mine site.

Phyu Hnin Htwe, 20, was released in October following a month’s detention in Monywa, Sagiang Division, after Wanbao, the joint venture company operating the Letpadaung project, declined to press charges. Tin Mar Ye, meanwhile, has been sentenced to a month’s imprisonment by the Chanmyathazi Township court for her involvement in the public show of support for the student activist, according to her lawyer Thein Than Oo.

Of the 50 people who prayed at the Maha Myat Muni Pagoda in September, only Tin Mar Ye was charged under Article 18, which carries a maximum sentence of six months in prison and a 30,000 kyats (US$29) fine for public demonstrators who fail to adhere to onerous permission and behavior requirements.

Phyu Hnin Htwe, lending her support to Tin Mar Ye on Thursday, was scathing of the court’s verdict.

“She only prayed for my release in the pagoda, yet she was charged with Article 18 and sent to prison for one month while I was released,” she said. “I think the justice system in Myanmar is ridiculous.”

Wai Wai Tun, one of the people involved in the prayer demonstration, said that the participants simply involved walking to and from the pagoda, stopping to pray and carrying a single placard demanding the release Phyu Hnin Htwe, which was carried by a young woman unrelated to Tin Mar Ye. In light of the restraint and the location of the public prayer, Wai Wai Tun and Thein Than Oo both told The Irrawaddy that it would be misleading even to characterize the event as a demonstration.

“If we really wanted to protest, we would not go to the pagoda,” she said.

Wai Wai Tun added that 50 people are planning to sit outside Oh Bo Prison on Saturday, where Tin Mar Ye is being held.