Police File Charges Against Kachin Protest Leader
By Lawi Weng & Saw yan Naing 12 October 2016
RANGOON — Police in the Kachin State capital of Myitkyina have filed charges against a local man who organized a protest calling for an end to Burma Army offensives in the region, according to local sources.
Lungjung Tu Raw was charged with violating Burma’s peaceful assembly law after thousands of ethnic Kachin marched against the war in their state on Oct. 6. Lungjung Tu Raw had received permission from the authorities to protest, but police say that by not having all of their slogans pre-approved, protesters allegedly violated the law.
The slogans which were singled out as violating the regulations were: “We condemn the Tatmadaw for raping and murdering our Kachin” and “We ask for a federal system and self-determination.”
Lungjung Tu Raw is a consultant for the community-based Kachin Baptist Convention, which organized the protest.
Hkawng Nang from the Kachin Women’s Union, who was also involved in protest, said, “If they come to take him, we have decided already that we all will go along with him.”
The original Peaceful Assembly Law, passed in 2012, amended in 2014 and re-introduced as the Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Processions Law in 2016, has been used to send dissidents to prison for violations. Hkawng Nang added that she did not know how the authorities would manage to justify the arrest Lungjung Tu Raw under the current statute.
The Burma Army continued its offensive against the Kachin Indpendence Army (KIA) just one day after the protest took place, using four air force fighter jets to attack a KIA outpost.
Fighting has been ongoing for two months. The KIA issued a statement placing blame on the Burmese army if the civil war spreads throughout Kachin State. The KIA also made a public announcement that they would fight defensively if government forces continue attacking them.
The Burma Army sent two jet fighters to attack KIA bases near their Laiza headquarters on both Monday and Tuesday. They have also been launching heavy artillery in airstrikes against a KIA base called the Gidon outpost since last week.
The Burmese Army has threatened to seize Laiza, a four-hour drive from Mai Ja Yang, another KIA stronghold on the Kachin-China border, and an educational hub for ethnic Kachin. There are more than 2,000 students in total from three high schools, four post-ten schools and several primary schools in the town.
The current attacks and rumors of Burma Army troop reinforcement have frightened Mai Ja Yang students and residents: many have started to dig protective bunkers.
“As they [Burma Army] have been attacking Laiza with jet fighters, we have gotten worried and have started to dig bunkers just in case, to protect our students. Our school is in the heart of the town,” said Zau Hseng, deputy headmaster of Institution of Art and Science, a Mai Ja Yang post-ten school hosting eighty students.
“We can’t trust that they won’t attack Mai Ja Yang. We worry for our students’ safety. So, we just prepare,” he added.