Three Karen activists arrested for organizing a peaceful community ceremony to commemorate the 69th Karen Martyr’s Day in Rangoon were given 15-days in jail by Kyauktada Township court today, October 2, 2019.
The three organizers, Karen Women Union, chairperson, Naw Ohn Hla, youth leaders, Saw Albert Cho and S’ Thein Zaw Min were earlier charged under section 20 of the Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Law, but according to Naw Ohn Hla, the judge pronounced them guilty for not cooperating with authorities.
Speaking to medias at the court gate after the court session, Naw Ohn Hla said.
“The judge pronounced that we are guilty for not cooperating with authorities.They said we failed to negotiate with authorities…. If it is a law, there is no need for negotiation. We held the ceremony according to the law and now we are sentenced to jail. It is sad. I don’t mind being sent to jail, but I feel like our Karen national Martyrs’ Day has been insulted.”
Naw K’nyaw Paw, secretary of the Karen Women Organization told Karen News that the sentencing of Naw Ohn Hla and two Karen youths is an obvious that show Burma is going nowhere on its democratization process.
“Our position is that they shouldn’t be arrested in the first place. Their actions in commemorating a national Martyrs’ Day are not breaking any law. Every country that considers itself democratic should allow such activities. The Burma government talks about building peace and equal rights for ethnic nationalities, but without recognition of ethnic history, their value and identity, it will be difficult to bring a genuine peace to this country.”
Naw K’nyaw Paw said she is not surprised to see an old tactic used by successive Burma governments intended to create fear among people who stand and fight for ethnic rights, equal rights and democratic rights in Burma.
“Many people say Burma is changing and now there is more space to push for change. But this case is an example that shows human right activists can be arrested and thrown in jail at any time. This creates fear for many – it means you have to remain brave and determined to continue your struggle to bring positive changes to the country.”
The three Karen activists are planning to appeal the sentences. Although they are sentenced to 15 days imprisonment, if their detention days are deducted, all three will be able to walk free.
As many as a thousand people gathered at Maha Bandu La Park in central Rangoon, where the Karen Martyrs’ Day commemoration was held and peacefully marched toward Kyauktada court in support of Naw Ohn Hla and the two Karen youths in the morning. People in the peaceful march holding Karen flags and other posters called for equal right for ethnic nationalities.
Over 20 civil society organizations, the Karen National Union, the Karen Unity and Peace Committee, Karen political parties and other ethnic nationalities alliances had put outs statement demanding for the unconditional release and the withdrawal of prosecution against the three Karen activists.