Court Dismisses Peaceful Assembly Charges Against Karenni Protestors

By Nyein Nyein 24 January 2018

CHIANG MAI, Thailand — The Loikaw Township court on Tuesday dismissed the lawsuits against three men from Karenni (Kayah) State who were detained on Jan. 19 and sued under Article 19 of the Peaceful Assembly Law

Khun Bee Du, chairman of the Kayan National Party, Khun A-Than, a central committee member of the Kayan New Generation Youth, and Khu Tu Reh, chairman of the Karenni State Farmers Union, were sued and detained last Friday for leading protests two weeks earlier on Jan. 5 in which they showed their solidarity with five other protesters who were sentenced to 20-days for demonstrating without informing the police 48 hours in advance.

On Wednesday morning, the five men from the Karenni State Youth Union and Karenni State Farmers Union were released from Loikaw prison after serving their terms.

Protesters demanded the truth and government action regarding Myanmar Army (Tatmadaw) killings of civilians last month. The string of protests began Dec. 22, two days after the Tatmadaw’s alleged arbitrary killing of a civilian and three soldiers from the Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP).

The KNPP said its soldiers and a civilian were executed during a Dec. 20 raid on the KNPP’s camp in Loikaw by troops from the Tatmadaw’s Regional Operations Command. The bodies of the dead were burned and the remaining ashes were given back to the KNPP on the following day. But the Tatmadaw claims the four were killed in a firefight during the raid.

This week, the Karenni State government and Loikaw elders, including the ethnic armed organization (KNPP), were in talks to drop charges against the protesters, said Khun Be Du, the chairman of the Kayan National Party.

He told The Irrawaddy on Wednesday that the court ordered the dismissal of their lawsuits on Tuesday.

Following their releases, Khun Be Du and the other two men also held talks with the government, including the Karenni State security and border affair minister and public prosecutor in regards to their cases and further charges against 12 additional men for protesting on Jan. 19. Authorities agreed not to proceed with the lawsuits.

“We demand action against the perpetrators and the release of any progress in the investigation of the Tatmadaw in this case, which the state government has agreed to,” said Khun Be Du.

The Tatmadaw’s internal tribunal on the murder case was carried out but no information has been released regarding the investigation as of yet.

“The government has a responsibility to share its findings,” said Khun Ye Min Kyaw, first secretary of the Karenni State Youth Union, one of the five men who was freed on Wednesday.

He told The Irrawaddy that the men “continue to fight for the truth” and that “if the civilian government keeps oppressing the people, the truth seekers will continue coming out.”