MYANMAR BURMA : Courts fine activists for peace protests, while others face jail

EMG

YANGON – Two members of the Kachin Peace Network have been fined Ks 20,000 (US$20) each by courts in Sanchaung and Dagon townships on Tuesday for demonstrating for peace in war-torn Kachin State.   

“Under Section 18, Sanchaung Township Court and Dagon Township Court fined us [the activists] for holding the unauthorised demonstration to end the wars in Kachin State on the International Peace Day,” Maran Jaw Gun from the Kachin Peace Network told Eleven Media yesterday.

Under Section 18 of the Peaceful Assembly and Procession Law, Maran Jaw Gun and May Sabe Phyu were sentenced a one-month imprisonment or allowed to pay a fine of Ks 10,000 (US$10) in the two courts.

“We protested on behalf of the people who are suffering in the refugee camps due to the conflict. Our demand is the demand of the refugees. We also submitted for permission to the authorities and since the authorities didn’t give us permission, we held the demonstration, which is our right as citizens.”

Kachin Peace Network coordinators facing trial at San Chaung Township Court, Yangon at 10 AM on 26 November 2013.
Kachin Peace Network coordinators facing trial at San Chaung Township Court, Yangon at 10 AM on 26 November 2013.

Last Thursday, activists including student leader D Nyein Lin were given a one month prison sentence for protesting against the authorities use of fire bombs against demonstrators in the Letpadaungtaung copper mine project last November. They did not have the option of a fine.

Political activists have criticised Myanmar’s judiciary for giving one month’s prison sentences to the six Letpadaungtaung activists, while the Kachin peace activists were given fines even though they were all charged under the same Section.

“According to the law, [the activists] were accused for protesting without permission. There seems to be distinctions in the judiciary because different courts gave different sentences even though the activists were tried under the same Section. So this may lead to doubts among the public against Myanmar’s judiciary sector,” said Myint Aung, a lawyer from the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP).

AAPP member Aung Myo Kyaw said he believes the activists were given different sentences because the government wants to protect the interests of the Chinese company Wenbao, which is jointly operating the copper mine project with military-owned Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings Ltd.

He added that Myanmar’s judiciary sector is infamous for injustice and corruption and the government is still unable to control it.

Maran Jaw Gun and May Sabe Phyu from the Kachin Peace Network have been charged under Section 18 by the courts in six townships – Sanchaung Township, Tamwe Township, Mingala Taungnyunt Township, Pazundaung Township, and Dagon Township – for leading a march of around 1,000 demonstrators calling for peace in the Kachin State on September 21, 2012.

Political activists, legal experts, and social organisations have been demanding the government to amend Section 18 after the six activists were given one month’s imprisonment last week.

Lower House MP Thura Aung Ko have earlier said the Parliament will review the proposal to amend Section 18.

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