Police Detain Student Activist, Allege Involvement in Chinese Workers’ Kidnapping

By Nyein Nyein 15 September 2014

A student activist was arrested on Saturday and is facing charges for her alleged involvement in the illegal detention in May of two Chinese workers by local villagers who oppose the Chinese-backed copper mine in Monywa, Sagaing Division, the All Burma Federation of Student Unions (ABFSU) said.

The student group has called for the immediate release of Phyu Hnin Htwe, 20, and said she is being falsely accused under the Penal Code’s articles 364 and 368, which set prison terms of up to 10 years for kidnapping and abduction.

Phyu Hnin Htwe has been following a long-distance studying course at Mandalay’s Yadanabon University. She is an ABFSU member and activist who has been visiting communities near the Letpadaung copper mine to offer her support, according to Ye Yint Kyaw, an ABFSU representative for Upper Burma.

He said she was arrested at her home in Patheingyi Township in Mandalay Division on Saturday at the request of Monywa Township police, who took her to Monywa Prison on Saturday. “Police said she would have to appear at the Yinmabin Township Court next Monday,” he added.

An officer at Monywa Police Station confirmed that Phyu Hnin Htwe had been arrested, but declined to discuss the case in detail.

Yinmabin Township is one several townships where communities have been affected by the copper mine of Chinese firm Wanbao. The company has been granted huge swathes of farmland by the government, but thousands of farmers claim they have not been properly compensated for the confiscation of their land. They have been holding protests against the project during the past two years.

In May, villagers in Yinmabin Township were angered when they saw Chinese Wanbao employees carrying out survey works on recently seized lands. Villagers believed the aim of the company was to later fence in the area.

They consequently brought the two men, along with a Burmese Wanbao employee, to Hsete village. The Burmese national was released the same day, but the Chinese employees were held for about 30 hours.

A total of seven people were charged with abduction in May; five were arrested and later pardoned by the court.

Phyu Hnin Htwe and Win Kyaw, a local villager, were also charged but did not show up for the trial. Until recently, Monywa authorities had made no attempt to arrest the two. Win Kyaw still remains at large.

Ye Yint Kyaw, the ABFSU representative, said Phyu Hnin Htwe had played no role in the events involving the Chinese employees, adding that she only taught some extra classes for grade 10 students in Hsete village.