The face of defiance

Leading human rights activist, Naw Ohn Hla, and nine others were arrested on 13 August for demonstrating without permission.

Last week she was sentenced to two years imprisonment with labour under the charge of sedition and disturbing public tranquility.

Naw Ohn Hla is an ethnic Karen from Mawbee township in Rangoon, and has spent her life campaigning for human rights and democracy.

The veteran protest leader is well known for leading weekly prayer demonstrations at Shwedagon pagoda. Since 2004 her Tuesday Prayer Group has met to pray for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and other political prisoners.

“Our group is going to support the political prisoners as much as we can and we have decided to send some supplies for their well being in prison,” said Naw Ohn Hla.

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In 2009 she was arrested after visiting a pagoda and spent two years behind bars before being released in a presidential amnesty in 2011.

Since her release Naw Ohn Hla has continued to take part in street protests calling for the release of all the remaining political prisoners.

On 13 August  this year she joined demonstrators calling for the suspension of the Latpadaung mining project.

The copper mine is responsible for the confiscation of about 7,800 acres of farmland in total and forcefully relocated farmers from 66 villages.

After a tense standoff, police arrested Naw Ohn Hla and nine others.

Last Wedensday the activist was charged with protesting without permission under the peaceful procession and peaceful assembly law, and a trial is pending.

However, a more serious charge of sedition was brought against Naw Ohn Hla and last Thursday she was sentenced to 2 years imprisonment.

Naw Ohn Hla’s sentence suggests that although the government is willing to offer some new freedoms, it still retains absolute power and is a stark reminder that those new freedoms can be snatched away at any time.

 

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