Burma police fired rubber bullets, tear gas and water cannon at peaceful Karenni protesters opposed to a statue of General Aung San that had been unveiled earlier this month in Loikaw the capital of Kayah State.
Organizers of the protest estimated that at least 3,000 people demonstrated on Tuesday against the statue of Aung San in gold, riding a horse – 54 people have been charged this month for unlawful assembly, incitement and defamation.
The UN’s special rapporteur on human rights in Burma, Yanghee Lee, condemned the police for its “violent response” to the peaceful protests.
“The government of Myanmar must respect the right of all people to peacefully assemble and express their views about issues that concern them,” Ms Lee said in a statement issued in Geneva. “Using disproportionate force against peaceful protesters is entirely unacceptable. The arrests must stop.”
The Karen Women’s Organization in a media statement supporting the protesters called for the “NLD Government and the Burmese military-run police to show respect both for indigenous history and for peaceful protest.”
The KWO praised the protesters for having “taken a courageous stand against the placement of General Aung San’s statue in the Karenni capital, Loikaw.
The KWO pointed out in its statement that Aung San is no hero of ethnic people. “We as fellow indigenous women understand that Burmese ethnic people hold the General as a hero of their people and the father of their independence. This is not how the indigenous people of Burma view him. He was a General in the Burmese Army. The same Army that attacks civilians, uses rape as a weapon of war and burns villages. The same Army that has forced millions to flee our homeland over the past 70 years. The same Army that causes many of our people to live in poverty and in refugee camps.”
The Karen Women’s Organization said it was “time for the Burmanization of our country to end. We have many indigenous groups who have a right to a voice and have heroes worth honoring. We want peace to move forward not provocation by those who want to hold us back or make us disappear.”
Fortify Rights, a human rights group working in Myanmar, called for an investigation into the police violence against the protesters. Matthew Smith, a Fortify Rights director was reported as saying. “The Myanmar authorities have a long history of using excessive and lethal force against peaceful protesters. The government needs to break the trend now, protect the right to protest and listen to the Karenni people.”
The government sponsored newspaper, Global New Light of Myanmar reported on Wednesday that state officials had revoke the charges against the protesters and demonstrators agreed to stop their protests for the moment.