Thou­sands protest jail­ing of Myan­mar anti-war ac­tivists

Mizzima Business Weekly - - CONTENTS -

Thou­sands of pro­test­ers on 11 De­cem­ber took to the streets in north­ern Myan­mar against the jail­ing of three anti-war ac­tivists in a rare pub­lic dis­play of anger.

Lum Zawng, Nang Pu and Zau Jet were sen­tenced Fri­day to six months in prison and fined about $320 each for de­fam­ing the mil­i­tary af­ter help­ing or­gan­ise a demon­stra­tion in Kachin state's cap­i­tal My­itky­ina in April.

They were high­light­ing the plight of thou­sands of civil­ians trapped by the fight­ing be­tween the mil­i­tary and eth­nic Kachin in­sur­gents in one of the world's long­est-run­ning civil wars.

On Tues­day demon­stra­tors, many with faces painted in Kachin's red and green colours held ban­ners aloft and chanted slo­gans against the ac­tivists' im­pris­on­ment and the ju­di­ciary.

"We de­mand the au­thor­i­ties re­lease our peo­ple im­me­di­ately," protest leader Naw Aung told AFP af­ter the march, which wound its way to the city's main sta­dium.

The or­gan­is­ers said some 4,000 peo­ple took part in the demon­stra­tion, in­clud­ing many lan­guish­ing in around 30 dis­place­ment camps around the city.

Po­lice gave AFP a more con­ser­va­tive es­ti­mate of 1,700 par­tic­i­pants, although ac­knowl­edged that more peo­ple joined later.

The EU and rights groups have urged Myan­mar's govern­ment to quash the con­vic­tions and re­lease all three ac­tivists.

The United Na­tions spe­cial rap­por­teur on hu­man rights in Myan­mar, Yanghee Lee, de­scribed the jail terms given to the ac­tivists as "wholly un­ac­cept­able".

"This is yet an­other case in which the Myan­mar govern­ment is fail­ing to up­hold hu­man rights and demo­cratic prin­ci­ples, and is us­ing an ar­chaic law that is con­trary to ac­cepted hu­man rights prin­ci­ples as a weapon against hu­man rights de­fend­ers," she said.

Rebels have clashed with the pow­er­ful mil­i­tary for more than six decades in the restive Kachin state over au­ton­omy, eth­nic iden­tity, drugs, jade and other nat­u­ral re­sources.

Fight­ing surged dra­mat­i­cally this year, forc­ing thou­sands to flee to camps in re­mote parts of the state with in­ad­e­quate ac­cess to aid.

More than 106,000 peo­ple are still liv­ing in camps across Kachin and Shan states, their plight re­cently over­shad­owed by the sep­a­rate Ro­hingya cri­sis in west­ern Rakhine state.

Pro­tes­tors take to the streets of My­itky­ina, Kachin State, to call for an end the con­flict. Photo: EPA

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