Sagaing Labor Protesters Sentenced Under Peaceful Assembly Act

By Zarni Mann 7 March 2017

MANDALAY — A court in Sagaing Township on Tuesday sentenced seven workers from a plywood factory in Sagaing Industrial Zone for labor protests they participated in last April.

Ko Khaing Min, one of the factory labor leaders, Ma Sein Lei Khaing and five others, were found guilty.

“Ko Khaing Min and five others received one month imprisonment for blocking the factory entrance during the protest, while he and three others received four months imprisonment under the Peaceful Assembly Act,” said Hnin Aung, one of the laborers who was at the court hearing on Tuesday.

About 100 workers began protesting in April in front of the factory. They later marched to Naypyidaw and were arrested in Tatkon just outside of the capital in May. Some were released, while the leaders of the protest had to face trial.

In July, the court in Tatkon sentenced 11 protesters to one-month imprisonment and 15 protesters had to pay a 5,000-kyat (about US$4) fine. Ko Kaing Min and Ma Sein Lei Khaing were among the imprisoned laborers.

Although they were released after their prison terms were fully served, they still had to face trial in Sagaing Township, where the police sued them under the Peaceful Assembly Act and the factory owner sued them under Article 341 of Burma’s Penal Code for blocking the factory and interrupting business.

“Four months imprisonment under Article 18 [of the Peaceful Assembly Act] is too much as they were only protesting for their rights,” said Hnin Aung.

“We question whether the government is truly democratic when workers protesting for their rights are sent to prison,” he added.