Activists Fined Under Section 18 Law

Burma courts fine Kachin peace activists 40,000 Kyat for violating a controversial protest law that critics claim is used to gag political dissent.

The two activists were charged under Section 18 of Burma’s Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Law. They were fined on the 26th of November.

The two activists, May Sabe Phyu and Maran Jaw Gun took part in a peaceful protest in Yangon on the International Day of Peace last year when charged, Burma Campaign UK – a human rights and democracy advocacy group based in the UK – said in a media statement.

May Sabe Phyu and Maran Jaw Gun were part of thousands protesting that day against the Burma’s military prosecution of a vicious war in Kachin State.

“The case highlights three tactics being used by the government of Burma to try to suppress dissent and protest, but at the same time give the appearance of change and avoid international pressure.” Burma Campaign UK said.

Karen News is led to believe that May Sabe Phyu and Maran Jaw Gun were made to attend 140 different court hearings over an almost two-year period.

International standards continue to be ignored

Burma’s Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Law, first hailed as part of the country’s roadmap to democracy, has in fact been used to imprison and harass hundreds of political activists since it was first introduced under Thein Sein’s administration. The law gives government authorities power to ban any protest and the government can ban gatherings of two people or more.

Burma Campaign UK said that the government has used Burma’s assembly laws to discourage political dissent.

“May Sabe Phyu and Maran Jaw Gun spent two years in fear of being jailed, attending court cases more than once a week, and have now been fined and have a criminal conviction, all for organising a peaceful protest for peace,” said Mark Farmaner, Director of Burma Campaign UK.

Mr Farmaner said the case against the activists’, “highlights new laws and tactics being used by the government of Burma to suppress dissent while trying to avoid international pressure. Sadly, these tactics are working, with the British government and others still unwilling to take off their rose-tinted glasses when dealing with Thein Sein and his government.”

A National Concern

The Assistance Association of Political Prisoners in Burma (AAPP) noted that the latest figures for October this year that 34 political activists were indicted, with two still in prison. A further five political activists were sentenced; three were given prison sentences and two paid a fine. That month also saw the release of 56 political prisoners.

In addition, three political prisoners were in poor health. AAPP said that 79 farmers involved in “plowing protests” in Pyin- Oo- LwinTsp were indicted in February 2013, under sections 442 and 447 for trespassing.

The AAPP said that, “while the country looks to its future the practice of using arbitrary laws in curtailing its citizens’ civil and political liberties is still very much in place.”

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