The arrested organizers, Sa Thein Saw Min and Saw Hser Kwa Lar were taken into custody and now face charges under the notorious Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Act.
The Karen Peace Support Network issue a statement condemning the arrest of organizers for commemoration of 70th Karen Martyrs’ Day in Rangoon on August 12, 2020 and calling for the charges to be dropped.
The KPSN statement pointed out despite the event being held legally and in line with Covid-19 regulations, local police officers arrested organizers Sa Thein Saw Min, Hser Kwa Lar and Daw Sein Htwe.
Naw Wah Ku Shee, a KPSN spokesperson told Karen News the government and military always resorted to using the draconian Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Act to oppress and silence activists.
“This law has never been used to protect the rights of the people. This oppressive law should be repealed. We demand the charges against the event organizers to be dropped and for them to be freed immediately – they didn’t break any law.”
KPSN argued the police and military discriminate against ethnic people and their organizations by targeting them. KPSN gave as an example the recent Burmese peoples’ Martyrs’ Day ceremony held in July and the 8888 uprising anniversary in early August, neither event organizers faced harassment, arrest or jail as Karen people do.
Naw Wah Ku Shee explained to Karen News “Each nationality including the Burman has their respective special days that they celebrate or commemorate. They have the right to honor their special days and should all ethnic nationalities – we must have the equal right to do so.”
KPSN said, “the law is being applied selectively in a racist and discriminatory way. It reminds Karen people of the discrimination we have faced for decades and why, 73 years ago, Karen people took to the streets protesting for equality and rights with the slogan, ‘Give the Burman one Kyat, give the Karen one Kyat.’”
KPSN pointed out the NLD civilian government has the power to drop charges against the arrested Karen organizers, and demanded they do so immediately.
“There needs be a review of laws used to discriminate against ethnic and religious groups in Burma, leading to the repeal of these laws. They need to be replaced by laws protecting ethnic and religious diversity.”
KPSN said that the arrest took place just days before the next round of peace talks gave an indication of a lack of genuine concern for the peace process by the civilian NLD led government.
Naw Wah Ku Shee questioned if the government’s commitment to the peace process is genuine.
“If the government cannot grant equal rights to this small event for the ethnic nationalities, how can they be expected to negotiate the building of a federal union and to deal honestly with other critical issues relevant at the peace talks? It certainly doesn’t build trust.”