The Irrawaddy

Organizers of Myitkyina Anti-War Protest Face Legal Action

MYITKYINA — Police plan to bring charges against the organizers of a demonstration held in Myitkyina on Saturday to mark the seventh anniversary of the resumption of military clashes in Kachin State.

Thousands of people attended a prayer event to mark the anniversary on Saturday at the Manaw Ground in the Kachin State capital. A 17-year truce between the Myanmar Army and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) collapsed on June 9, 2011.

Organizers had received official approval for the assembly. According to police, however, they continued the event beyond the permitted time and staged a drama for which permission had not been granted.

They would be charged under Article 19 of the Peaceful Assembly and Procession Law, police said.

“Their agenda for the assembly didn’t state that they would stage a drama. And the time allowed was only until 12 p.m. We will bring charges for these two reasons,” said Police Major Myint Moe of Myitkyina Township Police.

Describing the event, Kachin Baptist Convention chairman Dr. Hkalam Samson said, “They just reenacted the atrocities of the war. By war, they mean both sides. Those who participated in the performance have suffered for seven years. They just wanted to express their grievances, and everyone should understand that.”

The Kachin Peace Network said on Saturday that Yangon authorities had banned the holding of public events to mark the anniversary. The network condemned the ban, saying it was made without a sound reason.

It urged the government to lift restrictions on civilians’ freedom of expression in conflict areas, and to protect the fundamental rights of citizens.

According to the Joint Strategy Team, a network of civil society organizations helping internally displaced persons, clashes have forced more than 120,000 people from their homes to 167 camps in Kachin and northern Shan State.