Five members of two opposition parties were charged by local police in Pegu Division for leading an unauthorised demonstration against enacting a proportional representation (PR) voting system for the country’s elections, which was one of the central issues of the latest parliamentary session.
Earlier this week, four members of the National League for Democracy party — Kyaw San, Myo Thu Htut, U Kyaw and Maung Maung Toe – and Wunna, a member of the Democratic Party for New Society, organised a demonstration in Pegu Division’s town of Prome [Pyay] on Monday to protest against enacting a PR system.
Kyaw San said that he and the other organisers had requested on Friday for permission to hold their demonstration, but were rejected.
“They turned down our request, citing a regulation that permission should be sought no less than five days prior to the planned protest, and that it will not be appropriate to stage a demonstration against the PR system since there has been no debate or approval of it in Pegu Division yet,” Kyaw San said, adding that they went ahead with it anyway.
“We were informed by the Prome police station’s deputy superintendent, Myo Myint, on 5 August that there has been an order to see legal action against us and we now face charges under Section 18 of the Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Processions Act,” he said.
If found guilty, the group faces up to six months in prison or a fine of 30,000 kyat, roughly US$30.
Supreme Court lawyer Robert San Aung, who was appointed to represent the five, said that the Prome police station is going against the newly amended law.
“The Union Parliament has already made it clear that authorities should not turn down permission for the protest and I believe that the Prome government official’s decision to reject my client’s permission is against the law,” Robert San Aung said.
“This is completely inappropriate. The Union Parliament itself has amended the law and it puzzles me why the government officials on the ground are not adhering to it.”