MAC: Mines and Communities

Burma - Electoral candidate arrested over 2014 anti-mine protest

Published by MAC on 2015-10-20
Source: Statement, Irrawaddy (2015-10-20)

Independent election hopeful arrested over 2014 anti-mine protest

Zarni Mann

The Irrawaddy

19 October 2015

Myat Nu Khaing, an independent candidate contesting the Lower House constituency of Phyu in Pegu Division in the coming election, was arrested on Friday over her alleged participation in a protest outside the Chinese Embassy in Rangoon last year, according to her lawyer and supporters.

“She was taken during election campaigning in Phyu by police from Da gon Township on Friday,” said Tin Aye, a representative of the candidate’s campaign organizing committee. “The police sent her to Insein prison right away.”

Myat Nu Khaing briefly appeared in court in Rangoon Division’s Dagon Township on Monday.

“We don’t understand why the case has reemerged after one year and in the middle of a campaigning period. We will do the campaigning for her, however. We doubt if her arrest will cause her to lose the election,” Tin Aye said.

On Dec. 29 last year, nearly 100 people marched to the Chinese Embassy with the intention of laying wreathes in tribute to Khin Win, a woman in her 50s who was shot dead by police on Dec. 22 during a protest at Letpadaung in Sagaing Division against a controversial Chinese-backed copper mine.

Police blockaded the marchers before they could reach the Chinese mission and the two sides clashed after protesters attempted to breach the barricades.

In May, six activists, including prominent human rights advocate Naw Ohn Hla, were sentenced to four years and four months prison in relation to the protest.

According to Myat Nu Khaing’s lawyer, Than Zaw Aung, the parliamentary hopeful is facing a number of charges including under Article 18 of the Peaceful Assembly Law for protesting without permission and articles 147, 353 and 505(b) of Burma’s Penal Code.

These articles outlaw rioting; assault or use of criminal force against a public servant; and making statements with intent to cause “fear or alarm,” respectively.

The same charges were brought against the six activists sentenced in May.

“We tried to get bail but the court refused,” Than Zaw Aung told The Irrawaddy. “Her arrest might be for political reasons ahead of the election [since] the case just resurfaced now. The election commission has already recognized that she has no criminal record and registered her as a candi date. We have to question the authorities, why now?”

Myat Nu Khaing faces stiff competition in Phyu, a small town of 65,000 people, including from parliamentary speaker and former ruling party chairman Shwe Mann.

Ko Ko Kyaw, a former deputy director-general of the President’s Office, is also running for the sought-after seat alongside candidates from the National League for Democracy, the National Democratic Force, the National Unity Party and the Myanmar Farmers Development Party.


Myanmar: Election Candidate Held for Peaceful Protest

Amnesty International (Canada) Urgent Action - UA 237/15 (AI Index: ASA 16/2705/2015)

20 October 2015

A candidate standing for election to Myanmar’s Lower House of Parliament has been detained and charged for participating in a peaceful protest that took place 10 months ago against the shooting to death of a protester. She is a prisoner of conscience who must be immediately and unconditionally released.

Myat Nu Khaing, a medical doctor and independent election candidate in Phyu Township, Bago Region was arrested by the Phyu Police Chief on 17 October at a restaurant as she was taking a lunch break from her campaigning activities. She was arrested for participating in a peaceful protest which took place in Yangon, Myanmar’s largest city, on 29 December 2014, during which protesters were calling on the Myanmar authorities to investigate the death of Khin Win.

Khin Win was shot dead on 22 December 2014 when police opened fire on protesters demonstrating against land being taken over for the Letpadaung copper mine project in Sagaing Region, central Myanmar. Local communities and activists have been opposing the development of this copper mine because of concerns about environmental damage, risk of forced evictions and the negative impact on the communities' rights including to housing, food, and work. The Myanmar authorities have responded to such opposition by using excessive force against peaceful protesters on several occasions and by resorting to arbitrary arrest and detention.

Following her arrest, Myat Nu Khaing was taken to the Dagon Township police station in Yangon. On 19 October, the Dagon Township Court charged her with a series of offences under the Penal Code including:-

Myat Nu Khaing was also charged with participating in an unauthorized assembly under Article 18 of the Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Law. She faces up to nine years and nine months in prison. She was denied bail at the court hearing and is currently detained in Insein prison in Yangon.

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President:
Thein Sein
President’s Office, Office No.18
Nay Pyi Taw, Republic of the Union of Myanmar
Fax: 011 95 1 652 624
Salutation: Your Excellency

Minister of Home Affairs:
Lt Gen. Ko Ko
Ministry of Home Affairs
Office No. 10
Nay Pyi Taw, Republic of the Union of Myanmar
Fax: 011 95 67 412 439
Salutation: Your Excellency

Please send a copy to

His Excellency Hau Do Suan
Ambassador for Myanmar
336 Island Park Drive
Ottawa, Ontario K1Y 0A7
Fax: (613) 232-6999
Email: meottawa@rogers.com

Chairman, Myanmar National Human Rights Commission:
U Win Mra
27 Pyay Road, Hline Township
Yangon, Republic of the Union of Myanmar
Fax: 011 95 1 659 668
Email: chmyanmarnhrc@gmail.com

--

Additional information

Amnesty International believes Myat Nu Khaing’s arrest is politically motivated. Myat Nu Khaing, is an independent candidate standing for election to Myanmar’s Lower House of Parliament in Phyu Township in Bago Region. She is standing in the same constituency as Shwe Mann, the current speaker of Myanmar’s parliament, as well as Ko Ko Kyaw, a former deputy director-general of President Thein Sein’s office. The charges against her come 10 months after the protest in respect of which she has been detained and charged.

Myat Nu Khaing has also been charged under Article 149 of Myanmar’s Penal Code, under which any person who took part in an unlawful assembly in which some or even only one person committed an offence can be held criminally responsible, irrespective of whether or not they themselves actually took part in the offence. This clearly legitimizes collective punishment, in stark violation of a key rule of customary international law binding on Myanmar, under which an individual may only be punished for an act for which he or she is individually responsible.

On 15 May, human rights activists Naw Ohn Hla, San San Win (aka Lay Lay), Sein Htwe, Nay Myo Zin, Tin Htut Paing and Than Swe, were each sentenced to four years and four months’ imprisonment by the Dagon Township Court in Yangon, for participating in the same protest of 29 December 2014. (See Urgent Action: https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/asa16/1682/2015/en/). They have also received additional prison sentences in other townships which they walked through during the protest. All are currently imprisoned in Insein prison.

On 8 October Amnesty International released a briefing highlighting how Myanmar’s authorities have intensified repression over the past two years and in particular by clamping down on freedom of expression in the lead up to general elections scheduled for 8 November. See: https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/asa16/2457/2015/en/.

Amnesty International has undertaken a detailed investigation into the Monywa mining project, of which the Letpadaung copper mine forms part. For further details, see Amnesty International’s briefing Open for business? Corporate crime and abuses at Myanmar copper mine available at: https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/asa16/0003/2015/en/.

 

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