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At least six activists were convicted on Friday for violating Article 18 of Burma’s controversial Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Processions Law in Rangoon and Pegu Divisions.
Htin Kyaw of Kyauktada and Win Cho of Pegu were sentenced to nine months and six months, respectively. Sentences for at least five others in Pegu are as yet unconfirmed.
According to Thein Aung Myint, a fellow activist, Htin Kyaw was hit with charges for four separate offenses, three resulting in prosecution.
“The first verdict was for attempting to file a lawsuit against Poe La Pyae, the grandson of retired junta chief Snr-Gen Than Shwe. He was also charged for protesting the arrest of land rights activist Sein Than and demonstrating against the Latpadaung copper mine project,” said Thein Aung Myint.
Htin Kyaw was previously incarcerated for participation in the fuel hike protests of 2007, but was released from prison in a January 2012 amnesty.
Win Cho, who received a six-month sentence, has been in custody since his arrest in August for participation in “plough protests” in Pegu. Robert San Aung, Win Cho’s lawyer, told DVB on Friday that he and five others were sentenced under section 505 [b] of Burma’s penal code, which applies to those accused of “intent to cause fear or alarm to the public or to any section of the public whereby any person may be induced to commit an offence against the State or against public tranquility.”
In addition to the six-month sentence, Win Cho and the others were also fined up to 20,000 kyat for violating Article 18, according to Robert San Aung.
Burma’s Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Processions Law is a highly contested piece of legislation that has recently been denounced by several international human rights groups, who claim that the law is being used to target activists that oppose major development projects.
President Thein Sein in July made a public commitment to release all political prisoners by the end of 2013, though rights groups claim that the legislation is simultaneously creating more prisoners of conscience.
On Friday. six workers from Tawwin Wood Finished Products Factory who staged a protest demanding salary increases and labour rights in October 2012 were convicted by Sanchaung township court in Rangoon and ordered to either pay fines or serve one month in prison with labour.
Also last week, two activists who staged a protest on International Peace Day calling for an end to the conflict in northern Burma were fined by a township court in Rangoon under the same charges: Article 18.
And a larger number of activists and farmers have been detained and charged over the past year under the same legal clause with regard to demonstrations around the controversial Latpadaung copper mine.
Rights groups and political prisoners organisations have slammed the government’s policy of using the Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Processions Law to arrest, detain and intimidate protestors across the country who have staged demonstrations to call attention to land grab abuses and the exploitation of natural resources.