AAPP monthly Chronology of Feb 2019 and Current Political Prisoners list
MONTH IN REVIEW
February in Numbers
February Month in Review
Freedom of Speech is a basic human right, yet in Burma it is not protected and civilians who speak out often face oppression. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights(UDHR) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights(ICCPR) proclaim that everyone has the right to freedom of expression. These right is also protected under Article 354(a) of 2008 Constitution of Burma. Yet these rights are repeatedly infringed upon. The following incidents of arrests, charges and sentences of activists, students, workers and civilians in February illustrate the continued deterioration of freedom of expression in Burma.
- Ja Hkawn was charged under Section 20 of the PAPPL and was sentenced to pay a 10,000 kyat fine for leading a protest to permanently halt the Myitsone dam project in Kachin State.
- Seven students from Yadanabon University were sentenced to three months imprisonment under Section 19 of the PAPPL and Section 435 of the Penal Code.
- Two village level NLD members, and two locals, were sentenced to one year and six months imprisonment under Section 505(b) of the Penal Code for staging a protest in regards to the issue of squatters.
- Eight labour rights activists was charged under Section 20 of PAPPL for leading a protest for labour rights.
- Kyaw Zin Latt, a member of the Movement for Democracy Current Force (MDCF), was arrested and charged under Section 20 of PAPPL and 505(b) of the Penal Code for the abolishment of the 2008 Constitution and for calling for the resignation of the Home Affairs Minister
- Kayah State Police forcibly cracked down upon Karreni youth who staged a protest against the installation of a statue of Gen. Aung San. The police fired rubber bullets and used water cannons against the ethnic Karenni youth, as a result, 21 Karreni youth were injured. Moreover, 45 Karreni youth were charged under Section 19 of PAPPL. However, the Kayah State Government later dropped the charges over 55 Karreni Youth according to the agreements between Kayah State Government and protest leaders
- Nine activists who were demonstrating against the police firing rubber bullets against the Karreni activists had lawsuits filed against them under Section 19 of the PAPPL.
- Five residents including Lawpita village’s administrator Win Aung were charged under Section 20 of the PAPPL on February 5 for holding protests in support of the Gen. Aung San’s Statue in Loikaw City, Kayah State
These arrests, charges and sentences, particularly those against ethnic civilians, hinder national reconciliation. Therefore, we urge the government to respect the freedom of speech of its citizens, primarily by dropping all cases against activists and amending repressive laws such as PAPPL and 505(b) of the Penal Code.
The deterioration of freedom of expression for civilians has dire implications for the freedom of the press. In February, the chief editor of Tanintharyi Journal Myo Aung was fined 500,000 kyat ($326) under Section 25 (b) of the News Media Law, by a court in Dawei township, Tanintharyi Region for writing a satirical article. This is just one example of the oppression of media, done in order to stop them from criticizing authorities. Moreover, this encourages the self-censorship of journalists. In the 2015 Election Manifesto of the National League for Democracy(NLD), it states “The news media is the eyes and ears of the people. We will ensure that the media has the right to stand independently in accordance with self-regulation of matters relating to ethics and dignity, and the right to gather and disseminate news.” Accordingly, we urge the government to allow the existence of a free and independent media by acting in accordance with its election promises.
There has been some positive news in regards to prison reform. There will be a treatment center created for inmates suffering from HIV and TB in four central prisons in Burma in 2019. While these reforms are a positive step, there are still big concerns over the welfare and health of prisoners. In February four political prisoners, including former child soldier Aung Ko Htwe, Reuters Reporter Kyaw Soe Oo, Kachin Activist Nang Pu and Lawyer Zaw Win, suffered from healthcare concerns whilst in prison. Therefore, we urge the government to implement the right to medical healthcare for all prisoners, including these four political prisoners, in accordance with domestic and international laws and agreements
In further prison developments, according to Ministry of Home Affairs, Deputy Minister, Major-General Aung Thu, new two-story dormitories, prisons and prison cells are being built to accommodate the increasing number of inmates in prisons that are exceeding their capacity. We welcome such reforms and continue to urge the government to undergo systematic prison reform. One major step to do this would to be to reestablish the Ministry of Justice which had been formed in 1948, only to be closed down the same year.
Conflict between Burmese Army and Ethnic Armed Groups
In February, clashes between Military and Ethnic Armed Group have continued. This means indigenous people living in conflict areas face severe human right violations. Some examples of the resulting human rights violations are listed below.
- 13 out of 26 Arakanese from Chin Let Wa Village in Chin State, who fled to Kyauktaw in Arakan State due to the clashes between the military and Arakan Army(AA), were arrested and charged under Section 17(1)(2) of the Unlawful Association Act
- Zaw Win Naing in Ponnagyun Township was arrested and had a lawsuit filed against him under Section 17 (1) of the Unlawful Association Act in connection to him posting a video of police security convoys on his Facebook
- Ye Ye Soe, a 19 year old woman, was accidently shot and died as military fired into her village during a fight between the military and the Arakan Army (AA) in Rathedaung township (military officer gave 1.3 lakh in kyat to Ye Ye Soe’s family through village administrator) and two villagers were arrested
- At least three burned bodies were discovered two days after multiple clashes between the military and Arakan Army(AA) near Yan Aung Pyin village, Mrauk-U
- Four villagers from Mrauk-U Township were taken to be asked questions by the Mrauk-U Township Police Force while a monthly meeting was being held at the township general administrative office
- The Kyauktaw Myoma Police Station in Kyauktaw Township arrested the owner of Mahar Nwe Private High School in Thayet Tha Pin Village in Kyauktaw Township. Along with his cousin and two brothers, who were selling things at the Mahar Myat Muni Pagoda in Kyauktaw Township.
- Seven Mro Ethnic from Ne Pu Khan Village, Nga Kya Chay Village Tract in Mrauk-U Township, were taken as guides by Brigades 22
- Zaw Naing Htay, a 17 year old student who was supposed to take the matriculation exam at Kyauktaw Basic Education High School(BEHS), was arrested by a military battalion, and is having medical treatment provided to him to cure abnormal mental health problems after his release. (Military spokesman Brigadier General Zaw Min Tun denied the allegation that soldiers had beaten Zaw Naing Naing Htay and blamed the incident on the AA).
- On February 27, Police Lieutenant Salai Bifa and village administrator Chin Haw in Chin State, who were abducted by the Arakan Army (AA), were released. On February 22, the Arakan Army (AA) entered into a Thantaung Village, Paletwa township in Chin State and arrested a village administrator Chin Haw and then they took him in front of the police station and told Police Lieutenant Salai Bifa to come outside of the police station and demanded their weapons. As Police Lieutenant Salai Bifa did not give weapons, both were arrested by AA.
- Military troops arrested six alleged members of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland-Khaplang during a four-day operation in the Naga Self-Administered Region, Northern Sagaing Region
- Ethnic Ta’ang teenager in Okk Mann Lee village, Kutkai Township, 17 years old, was shot to death by military’s Light Infantry Battalion 361, under Military Operation Command 10. He was returning home from a pagoda festival with a friend, when they met a group of soldiers at the entrance of their village of Okk Mann Lee around 9 p.m. Mai Aike Zaup’s family said the soldiers apologized for killing their son and paid them 2 million kyat ($1,311) in compensation
Human rights violations arising from conflicts such as arrests, disappearances, murders, tortures, charges and sentences habitually occur in ethnic regions of Burma. Yet, perpetrators continue to be unpunished and go without justice. The rights of citizens are protected by the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment(UNCAT) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights(ICCPR). However, Burma’s government failure to ratify such conventions has left citizens unprotected. Therefore, we urge the government to ratify international agreements and take actions against perpetrators by showing respect for, and the protection of, its citizens.
Despite the fact that Burma has ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) since October 2017, farmers and locals continue to have been dispossessed from their land. Farmers and land rights activists continue to speak out against land seizures. In February, farmers staged a protest in East Dagon Township and Mingaladon Township in Rangoon Division, Wundwin Township in Mandalay Division, Mabein Township in Northern Shan State, Thandwe Township in Arakan State and Kyaikmayaw Township in Mon State calling for the return of their land and for appropriate compensation.
Three farmers from Wat Hmae village in Salingyi Township in Sagaing Division were sentenced to pay a fine under Section 341 of the Penal Code for attempting to stop police from entering their village. Hence, we urge the government to address land issues including land confiscation and land disputes without any impede.
In regards to legislation and policy development in February, The Union parliament approved the formation of a joint committee to draft amendments to the 2008 constitution. The office of the Union of Parliament released a bill to amend the Law Protecting the Privacy and Security Citizens. The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) welcomes the amendments of these laws, and urges the government to ensure these laws protect the right to freedom and safety.
For more information:
Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP)
Tate Naing (Secretary)
+66 (0) 812 878 751
+95(0) 9428 023 828
Bo Kyi (Joint Secretary) +66(0) 81 9628 713
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