Trio Face Legal Action Over Event in Support of Convicted Karen Activists

By Zaw Zaw Htwe 4 October 2019

YANGON—Kyauktada Township police have opened unlawful assembly cases against another three activists for organizing a protest at a courthouse in Yangon in support of three Karen activists who were later convicted of similar charges.

The police captain of Kyauktada Township has opened cases against Daw Sein Htwe and Ma Zarchi Linn of the Democracy, Peace and Women (DPW) group, and Naw Larshee Htoo of the Karen Women’s Union (KWU) for leading a rally in solidarity with three Karen activists who were found guilty Wednesday for holding an earlier unlawful gathering on Karen Martyrs’ Day in Yangon.

The Kyauktada police said in a summons letter that about 130 people led by Daw Sein Htwe, Ma Zarchi Linn and Naw Larshee Htoo chanted slogans at the township court as police brought three Karen activists—Daw Naw Ohn Hla, Saw Elbert Cho and Sa Thein Zaw Min —to a court hearing on their own charges of unlawful assembly. The summons letter says that Daw Sein Htwe, Ma Zarchi Linn and Naw Larshee Htoo did not ask permission to organize their demonstration.

Larshee Htoo is Karen, while Daw Sein Htwe and Ma Zarchi Linn are ethnic Burmese. The three activists who are now being sued were asked to appear at Kyauktada Police Station on Friday.

On Thursday, DPW and KWU issued a joint statement condemning the allegations, saying that they will continue to protest against the lawsuits, which they say constitute dictatorial oppression.

”People who supported those whose rights were being violated have now been [sued]. This shouldn’t be the case,” Ko Min Nay Htoo, general secretary of the DPW, told The Irrawaddy on Friday.

He added that he suspects the cases are the result of a grudge held by the authorities, because all of the accused are members of organizations founded by Naw Ohn Hla.

Ko Min Nay Htoo also said that if police arrest these three activists, all the supporters who came to the court on Sept. 27 will go to the police station to be arrested.

Naw Ohn Hla, Saw Elbert Cho and Sa Thein Zaw Min were sentenced by the Kyauktada Township Court on Wednesday to 15 days in prison. They were then released without being sent to jail again as they had already been detained for more than two weeks while they were prosecuted.

Police had filed a lawsuit against the three after they refused to comply with orders to delete the word ”martyr” from all aspects of this year’s Karen Martyrs’ Day commemoration.

Authorities banned the use of the term ”martyr” in reference to Karen revolutionary leader Saw Ba U Gyi, who was murdered on Aug. 12, 1950. His death is commemorated annually as Karen Martyrs’ Day.

This year on Aug. 12, more than 100 people, led by Naw Ohn Hla, So Elbert Cho and Sa Thein Zaw Min, participated in an event to mark the 69th anniversary of Karen Martyrs’ Day in front of City Hall in Kyauktada Township, Yangon.