Organizers of a peaceful protest in Rangoon last week said at the time that they were willing to test the law, now that authorities have arrested them.
Today nine of the demonstrators that took part in last week’s protests held during the United Nation’s International Peace Day march in Rangoon have been charged by police and could face up to a year in jail and a 30,000 kyat fine for marching without official permission.
Nine protesters have been charged under Article 18 of the country’s penal code for organizing a public gathering without official permission.
Ko Moe Thway, an organizer of the street march that took place last week on the United Nations International Day of Peace, said in response to an earlier police warning that legal action would be taken against protesters, that his group is not afraid to face trial if it is done according to the law.
Ko Moe Thway, a member of the New Generation Wave and an organizer of the Peace Day protest spoke to Karen News.
“We are not doing this with the intention to stir up religious or national conflicts. We are doing this for peace. The authorities tried to make many excuses to not allow this [the street march] to happen and they are now threatening to arrest those involved. If they are taking legal action, we will face it according to the law.”
On September 11, Myint Htwe, the Police Chief of Rangoon Division together with the Division Chief Minister held a media conference warning that anyone who took part in the Peace Day march without official permission would be investigated and legal action taken.
Ko Moe Thway said that his organization had asked for permission on several occasions to hold the march from every level of authority, but the permission had not been given. Ko Moe Thway said that because of all the restrictions imposed on marchers and the excuses made by the government, freedom of expression for the people is still a long way.
On September 21, as many as 2,000 people, including community based organization and ethnic nationalities from different religions gathered in front of Rangoon City Hall at 10 am and marched to Inya Lake where the protest ended at 6 pm.
One of the protester involved in last week’s march said that they were worried, as they had heard that the government would take legal action against them.
A Karen woman, Naw Suzanna Hla Hla Soe, was reported as saying.
“If the government is going to take legal action against the people who are doing what they can for peace, I am worried that Burma will lose its image to international community.”
During the media conference in early September, the Rangoon Police Chief mentioned that anyone who breaks any law related to public gatherings would be sentenced to a year in prison and fined 30,000Kyat.
The street protest was held to mark the UN’s International Day of Peace and to call for an end to armed conflicts in ethnic areas.