The Myanmar authorities must end its assault on peaceful protestors and immediately release three Kachin peace activists jailed for defaming the military last week and drop charges against another three charged with peacefully protesting the court conviction. The three activists were charged under the Peaceful Assembly Act for holding a protest without permission in Myitkyina, the capital of Kachin State.
Lum Zawng, a lawyer, Nang Pu, a women advocate, and Zau Jat, a civil society representative, were convicted for making speeches at a rally in April that called for the Tatmadaw to free thousands of civilians trapped by the fighting in Tanai. A judge found the two men and one woman guilty of defamation and sentenced them to six months in prison and a fine of US$320 each. Those charged on December 7th were Kachin Brang Mai, Seng Hkum Awng and Sut Seng Htoi. More peaceful protests were planned in Myitkyina on Tuesday to show solidarity with the jailed activists.
“Targeting peaceful human rights defenders for condemning conflict represents a farcical miscarriage of justice and exposes the Tatmadaw’s cowardly fear of addressing abuses linked to the conflict in Kachin,” said Paul Donowitz, Campaign Leader for Myanmar at Global Witness. “These prosecutions represent a worrying escalation in the Tatmadaw’s intimidation of critics and will do little to create an atmosphere conducive to peace.”
The Myanmar army has stepped up its attacks on the Kachin Independence Army in northern Myanmar over the past year, including targeting the gold and amber mining area in Tanai and in jade-rich Hpakant township, resulting in wide-scale displacement and fuelling outrage among the Kachin population.
“If the Myanmar army won’t even discuss the protection of civilians in conflict, there is little hope of resolving the underlying drivers of conflict in northern Myanmar, including the complicated nexus of resources, corruption and conflict,” added Donowitz. “The civilian government should use its powers to drop these charges, and quickly move to abolish or amend the regressive laws being used to batter free speech in Myanmar.”
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