Police Open Case Against Anti-Myitsone Dam Protest Leader

By Nan Lwin Hnin Pwint 8 February 2019

YANGON—Police have filed a lawsuit against a leader of Thursday’s protest against the Myitsone Dam project in the Kachin State capital, Myitkyina.

Around 10,000 members of the Kachin community joined the protest march calling for the termination of the China-backed dam project at the source of the Irrawaddy River, which arises out of the confluence of two smaller rivers.

Police filed a lawsuit against Ja Hkawn, one of the protest organizers, under Section 20 of the Peaceful Assembly and Procession Law, according to Police Major Myint Moe of Myitkyina’s Police Station No. 1

If convicted, she faces a maximum of one month in prison and/or a 10,000-kyat fine.

“[The protest] violated provisions of Chapter 4 and Chapter 5 [of the Peaceful Assembly and Procession Law],” the police major said.

Under the law, organizers must notify township police of any protest in advance, as well as the location, timeframe and aims of the protest. They must also provide details of any slogans to be displayed and the personal information of anyone planning to speak.

Kachin religious leaders, Buddhist monks, leaders of Kachin political parties, Kachin civil society organizations, activists and locals from Myitkyina and Waingmaw townships joined Thursday’s protest.

Wearing headbands reading “No Myitsone Dam”, protesters held placards written in Burmese, English and Chinese reading, “No dam on the Irrawaddy River, the lifeblood of Myanmar”, “Terminate the dam projects upstream and downstream on the Irrawaddy River”, “Let the Irrawaddy River flow freely” and “Let those displaced by [the dam project on] the Irrawaddy River go back home.”

According to police, protesters used loudspeakers, though they were only cleared to use megaphones. They also wore headbands and engaged in other activities such as making speeches without permission, police said.

“We have told them that we can’t allow them to do those things—for example, using speakers—due to legal restrictions. They understand that,” Police Maj. Myint Moe told The Irrawaddy.

Ja Hkawn said, “I received a notification from the police. I could not stop protesters using loudspeakers, as there were many protesters. We used the headbands because they bear the same slogan we were given permission to use.”