Myanmar Police Prosecute Activists Celebrating Human Rights Day

By Khine Rola 22 December 2020

Sittwe, Rakhine State — Rakhine State police have opened a case against three activists under Article 19 of the Peaceful Assembly and Procession Law over a human rights demonstration in the state capital, Sittwe, earlier this month.

The three – Ko Min Bar Chay (also known as Ko Than Hla), Ko Naing Naing Tun and Ma Khaing Mrat Thu from the Rakhine Youth New Generation Network — led other protesters to mark Human Rights Day on Dec. 10.

The three were detained as they protested on Strand Road in Sittwe and released on bail later that evening.

However, Sittwe Township police chief, Major Zaw Naing, said the three organized the event without seeking approval from the authorities when he filed the charges on Monday.

“The police said they opened a case against us because we did not ask for their permission when we organized the campaign,” said Ko Than Hla.

The three insisted that the event was too important to cancel because the authorities failed to grant approval.

At the event, the activists held placards calling for human rights, women’s rights and to end terrorism.

The three suspects leave court on December 21. / Khine Rola / The Irrawaddy

Ma Khaing Mrat Thu said: “It was Human Rights Day and Myanmar has ratified the International Human Rights Declaration. What we organized was not a protest but a campaign. We are very sad that the government filed a lawsuit against us instead of appreciating the citizens who respect human rights.”

The Irrawaddy was unable to contact the plaintiff, Police Major Zaw Naing, for a comment.

Human rights activists have condemned the legal proceedings.

Ko Zaw Zaw Min, a lawyer at the Arakan Human Rights Defenders and Promoters Association, said: “They just expressed their opinions on Human Rights Day. They should have freedom of expression. They marked the event to protect human rights. Treating such activities as a sensitive issue and taking legal action will only disrupt justice.”

The next court hearing is scheduled for December 30.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko

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