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Farmer’s rights advocate Su Su Nway has been jailed in Pegu Division after being charged with trespassing.
The well-known activist was passing through Intagaw township on her way to Rangoon on Thursday, when she was stopped by police and taken to a courthouse. There, she was informed that she was to be charged with trespassing under Article 447 of Burma’s Penal Code.
As leader of the Myanmar Farmers Union, Su Su Nway in 2014 began assisting local farmers in Intagaw who claimed that the Burmese army had confiscated around 5,000 acres of their farmland.
Three months ago, Intagaw police informed the activist that the area’s battalion captain, Hein Zaw, had pressed charges against her for trespassing. She refused to answer the charge.
On Thursday, Su Su Nway refused to apply for bail at the courthouse. The activist claimed to have been denied bail by the army, despite the court judge having allowed it, and was taken to Pegu prison.
“As I believe that I am innocent in the case, I will not be seeking bail,” she said.
“At the time, the judge decided to grant me bail despite my refusal. But the prosecutor, Hein Zaw, shouted orders for the policewomen to take me away. I would like to question if Hein Zaw is above the law.”
Su Su Nway further refused to cooperate with proceedings against her.
“I was also asked to pick a date for court appointment – I replied that since I’m not a judge and don’t consider myself a suspect in the case, I won’t be giving them a date either.”
Ko Marki, of the 88 Generation Peace and Open Society civil society organisation, said he suspects there are ulterior motives behind the arrest.
“I assume the [authorities] are trying to detain activists ahead of the elections by using every possible charge against them to cripple the democratic force in Burma.”
Originally from Rangoon Division, 43-year-old Su Su Nway has campaigned for labour rights for many years.
A member of the National League for Democracy and a former political prisoner, she became the first person to successfully sue local government officials in 2005 under Burma’s 1999 Forced Labour Law. Sentenced to 12 and a half years for protesting and activism in 2007 and 2008, she suffered ill-health in prison, exacerbated by long periods in solitary confinement.
She was released on a presidential amnesty in October 2011, but immediately returned to the fray as a relentless campaigner for farmers who have had their lands seized.
Su Su Nway’s next hearing is scheduled for 29 July.