RANGOON — Rangoon police said they filed a criminal lawsuit against the organizer of a demonstration that called for an inquiry into the killing of a journalist. Organizers of a similar protest in Mandalay could also face criminal charges.
Police told The Irrawaddy that youth activist Moe Thway of Generation Wave is being charged under Article 18 of the Peaceful Assembly, which bans holding an unauthorized protest and can result in a prison terms of up to six months.
“We filed a lawsuit against Moe Thway and party under Article 18, but we are still analyzing which of the protesters will be charged,” an officer at Kyauktada Township Police Station said on Monday, before declining further comment.
On Sunday, some 200 representatives of activists groups and civil society organizations, including the prominent 88 Generation Peace and Open Society, gathered in front of Rangoon’s City Hall to demand justice in the case of the recent killing of reporter Aung Kyaw Naing.
Last Friday, the Interim Myanmar Press Council said it had been notified by the Burma Army that the freelance journalist, also known as Par Gyi, had been arrested by the military in Mon State on Sept. 30, interrogated and later killed.
Moe Thway said he sent a letter to Kyauktada Township Police Station on Friday asking for permission to hold the protest, but received no reply. He said he went ahead with the event as planned regardless.
Moe Thway said he called Kyauktada police on Monday and learned that he had been charged. He added that he had not yet received official notification of the lawsuit.
In Mandalay on Monday night, about 200 activists and demonstrators also assembled to call for justice in the case of the slain journalist. Organizers said authorities had turned down their request to hold a protest, but they had gone ahead anyway.
“We informed the police about the protest on Sunday. The police gave back the letter and replied that they don’t allow it at such short notice,” said Thein Aung Myint, a Mandalay-based activist with the Movement for Democracy Current Forces.
Thein Aung Myint said he feared that those who sent the letter and some of protestors could face criminal charges, adding that during the event police had shown up to question the demonstrators and discourage them from protesting.
Moe Thway said he had noticed how Kyauktada police a week before had needed only one day to grant permission for a protest calling for fair treatment of two Burmese migrants in Thailand, who are being accused of killing two British tourists.
He said he believed this indicated that police were using the Peaceful Assembly Law to thwart politically sensitive demonstrations. “They permit the protest depending on the cause of the protest. It is not good, it seems like they can do with the law whatever they want,” he said.