Three Kachin activists were sentenced today by a court
in Burma to six months in prison and a fine of 500,000 Burmese Kyats (£250)
each for their role in a peaceful demonstration calling on the Burmese
government to help internally displaced people fleeing attacks by the Burma
The activists – Lum Zawng, Nang Pu and Zau Jat – were charged with defamation of the Burma Army under Article 500 of Burma’s Penal Code, for their role in a peaceful rally on 30 April this year and a press conference the following day following the escalation of the conflict between the Burma Army and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA).
More than 5,000 civilians were reportedly displaced as a result of fighting earlier this year, and at least 2,000 were trapped without access to humanitarian assistance for several weeks. The protests, in which Lum Zawng, Nang Pu and Zau Jet participated, called for assistance for those fleeing the conflict.
CSW’s East Asia Team Leader, Benedict Rogers, said: “This sentence is outrageous and completely unjustified. These three activists were appealing for aid for civilians trapped in the jungle fleeing fighting. Since when has peacefully appealing for humanitarian assistance been a crime?”
Last month CSW hosted a delegation of six activists from the Kachin, Shan and Ta’ang ethnic nationalities in northern Burma in London and Brussels, who urged Parliamentarians and policy-makers to put pressure on the government of Burma to allow unrestricted humanitarian access to all areas of Kachin and Shan states, and repeal repressive laws which repress Burmese civil society and media.
“The decision to charge these three brave activists with defamation of the military was absurd, and the decision to convict, jail and fine them is a miscarriage of justice,” Benedict Rogers added. “We call for their immediate and unconditional release and for this verdict to be reversed. No one peacefully protesting against war and for humanitarian assistance should ever be criminalised. Peaceful protest is a basic human right, and those who exercise that right to appeal for aid for people fleeing conflict deserve our respect and support.”