SEPTEMBER CHRONOLOGY 2020 and Current Political Prisoners list
MONTH IN REVIEW
Freedom of Speech and Expression
September 15 was the UN International Democracy Day. Democracy is “a form of government in which the people have the authority to choose their governing legislation.” However, the values and standards of democracy have not yet been established in Burma and the people’s authority over their daily lives and fundamental rights is fading. It is clearly shown that Burma is deviating from the path of democracy as those who exercise their right to freedom of speech and expression which is a fundamental right in democratization, face not only oppression and restrictions but arbitrary detentions and arrests.
This September, freedom of speech and expression became more severely restricted. A total of 34 students and members of student unions from Rangoon, Mandalay, Meiktila Monywa, Pakokku and Pyay Townships were charged under Section 19 of PAPPL or Section 505(a)(b) of the Penal Code or Section 25 of the Natural Disaster Management Law for staging protests in related to the conflict in Arakan. Among them, 23 students were formally arrested and one was sentenced. In addition to this, four civilians were arrested.
Moreover, Sithu Aung a.k.a Saung Kha was fined under Section 19 of PAPPL for protesting to reinstate internet services in Arakan and Chin states. Likewise, Sein Htwe, Sa Thein Zaw Min, and Saw Hsar Kwar were sentenced to 15 days imprisonment under Section 20 of PAPPL for their roles in organizing an event to mark Karen Martyrs’ Day.
The incidents highlighted indicate that freedom of speech and expression in Burma is declining severely. PAPPL and Penal Code 505(a)(b) which restrcit these fundamental rights have not been amended. The violation of the freedom of speech and expression is a violation of one’s human rights and hinders the way to democracy. Accordingly, we urge the government to release sentenced political prisoners and those facing trial inside and outside prison for exercising their right to free speech and expression and to amend or repeal the repressive laws.
So, the infection rate of the COVID-19 Pandemic is higher in Burma in that current situation. During this time, the prevention measures in prisons will not be as effective as unnecessarily overcrowding in prisons due to the arrests and detentions of students, activists and civilians who peacefully staged the protests. Following the infection of two police officers of no(1) police station of Arakan State’s Sittwe Town, 22 policemen and 19 detainees of the station were also infected. This is worrying development for prisoners in prisons, detention centers and labor camps. As prisons are already owercrowding, it becomes harder to control if they are infected. The unnecessary arrests must be halted whilst prisons are in this condition. It is also vital to be transparent about what preventive measures are being taken and how many prisoners and detainees are infected.
Restriction on Political Rights
As the 2020 Election nears, some political parties are facing restrictions on their political rights. During the election period, every political party has the right to publish their policy, their upcoming activities and the current conditions. Then people can vote for their tursted parties. However, this month the Union Election Commission (UEC) reportedly censored campaign speeches script to be broadcast by the state owned media. Political parties which have been censored are: Dawei Nationalities Party (DNP), Democratic Party for a New Society (DPNS), National Democratic Force (NDF), People’s Party, Arakan National Party (ANP), Arakan Front Party (AFP) and Arakan League for Democracy (ALD). Due to censorship, DPNS, People’s Party and AFP withdrew their election broadcasts.
This restricts the right to free speech and the right to freely campaign, whilst contravening the values and standards of democracy. Therefore, we urge the government to review such censorships to prevent the loss of the people’s right to choose.
Consequences of Ongoing Conflicts in Ethnic Areas
September 21 is the UN International Peace Day. However, the internal conflicts in Burma continue and respect for human dignity and human rights are still left behind in war zones. Along with the infection rate of COVID-19 pandemic steadily increasing, human rights abuses are also on the rise. It is especially worrying that all people living in Arakan State face not only the effect of the civil war but also the various human violations arising from the COVID-19 Pandemic. Some incidents of human rights violations in September were:
- Three-wheel taxi driver Aye Kyaw from Myo Thit Ward in Mrauk-U Township of Arakan State died during interrogation in military custody. (Tatmadaw True News issued a statement claiming that he shot himself dead when he snatched a pistol from the team of interrogators early on 28 September)
- The bodies of two villagers – Nyunt Win and Han Maung Thein from Phayarpaung village in Kyauktaw Township, Arakan State, who were arrested by a military battalion as a guide, were found with gunshot wounds. (U San Tun Hla, the father of Han Maung Thein, said: “his son was shot dead as a bomb exploded near the Phayarpaung village, claiming that they are suspicious.”)
- Maung Thein Soe, an administrator of Sabarhtar village in Ponnagyun Township, Arakan State, was arrested in relation to the arrest of rice mill owner Ye Kyaw Tun of Sabarhtar village for alleged Arakan Army links. Maung Thein Soe said he was forced to confess that the bags of rice seized along with Ye Kyaw Tun were the rations of the Arakan Army (AA). (Moreover, Maung Thein Soe overheard the torture of Ye Kyaw Tun according to Kyaw Khaing, nephew of Maung Thein Soe)
- When Myint Maung and Tun Myint Than from Myaingthaya Village of Myebon Township in Arakan State were arrested and beaten by a military convoy, Myint Maung’s head was broken and Tun Myint Than’s face was swollen.
- Maung Nyunt Sein’s son from Tharsi Village in Arakan State’s Kyauktaw Township was badly beaten by marauding soldiers and is in critical condition.
- The eleven villagers from Thayat Ta Pin village under Arakan State’s Kyauktaw Township were beaten by the military soldiers while in detention
Bullet injuries and fatalities
- Three civilians were wounded, including a 10-year-old child in shootings in Rathedaung, Kyauktaw and Mrauk-U Townships, in Arakan State.
- Another two civilians were also killed and one wounded in Hsipaw and Lashio Townships in Shan State.
Deaths/injuries caused by artillery shelling
- 28 civilians including six children were injured and five civilians including two children died in artillery shelling in Kyauktaw, Rathedaung and Myebon Townships, Rakhine State.
Deaths/injuries caused by landmines
- One civilian was killed and five were injured by landmines in Arakan State’s Ponnagyun Township and Chin State’s Paletwa Township.
During the COVID-19 Pandemic, these incidents show the extent and severity of human right violations affecting people in Arakan State. Ways must be found to end human rights abuses on local ethnic people as soon as possible and effective prevention and control of infectious diseases must be carried out effectively in these areas during the conflict and COVID-19 pandemic. Although the Myanmar military extended the national ceasefire until October 31, Arakan State and Chin State’s Paletwa Township remain excluded. A Policy Brief on COVID-19 and Human Rights of UN Secretary-General António Guterres stated that, in their COVID-19 response some States may seek to use counter-terrorism legislation and security measures in ways that infringe on human rights. Such abuses could fuel the conditions conducive to the spread of terrorism. Accordingly, by respecting human rights and human dignity and by implementing the national reconciliation and peace process, we urge the government to protect the most affected local ethnic people in the current situation.
Shortcomings of Judiciary Sector (Special Section)
The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) this month would like to include a special section on Burma’s judiciary. Burma’s judiciary sector has been faltering for decades. A fair judiciary was failed under the dictatorship regime. Reforms for an effective and fair judiciary have not been met as the transition is said to continue. These conditions significantly express the arrests, charges and sentences of students under various lawsuits for peaceful protests over the ongoing conflict in Arakan State.
A total of 34 students were arrested and three sentenced this month. Two out of the three sentenced students are Kyaw Thiha Ye Kyaw, office head of the Central Executive Committee of the All Burma Federation of Student Unions (ABFSU), and Soe Hla Naing, vocational secretary of ABFSU. They both did not receive a free and fair trial. They were charged under Section 505(a)(b) of the Penal Code by the Amarapura and Mahar Aung Myay Township Courts and charged under Section 19 of PAPPL and Section 25 of the Natural Disaster Management Law by the Chanayethazan Township Court. Kyaw Thiha Ye Kyaw and Soe Hla Naing did not know they were charged at the Mahar Aung Myay Township Court and their families did not know either. On October 2, Mahar Aung Myay Township Court sentenced them two years imprisonment under Section 505(a) and two years imprisonment under Section 505(b) of the Penal Code. But, the court decided to serve them the sentences together. They both did not have a chance to attend the court hearings and did not have a chance to defend themselves at the Mahar Aung Myay Township Court and were taken to the court the day they were sentenced. It is reported that, even though the ABFSU students boycotted the court, the respective township courts have the power to testify the plaintiffs and prosecution witnesses so that a decision was made.
They both have no right to enjoy such proceedings, this shows judicial rights are being lost. Articles 6 and 7 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and Article 16 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) enshrined “everyone shall have the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law and all are equal before the law”. This incident shows that it is an unconventional judiciary during COVID-19 pandemic. Instead of reducing prisoners numbers due to overcrowding during COVID-19 Pandemic, peaceful protests are being punished as a criminal offense to intimidate further protests. The judiciary sector in Burma in the transition should not be forgotten and must immediately implement a just judiciary system. As the judiciary system in Burma is based on the Common Law Legal System, it must be reformed. In doing so, independent, transparent reforms are needed to create a fair judiciary. The oppressive laws that restrict the protests must immediately be amended. In order to implement such amendments and changes, the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) urges the government to re-establish the Ministry of Justice as soon as possible.
For More Information:
Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP)
UTateNaing (Secretary) +95(0)9428023828
U Bo Kyi (Joint-Secretary) +95(0)9425308840
Download link for September Chronology September Chronology
Remaining Political Prisoners List 32 Remaining PP list (Eng)
Facing Trial list 539 Facing Trial List (English) Updated on 30 September 2020
66 (D) list 66 (D) total list(new) Updated