Eight activists, who were charged under the Burma’s Peaceful Assembly Law for their role in Saturday’s anti-war protest in Yangon, were granted bail yesterday.
The eight – Thet Swe Win, Moe Thway, Paing Ye Thu, Saung Kha, Htet Khaing Soe, Shar Yamone, Ei Ei Moe and Thinzar Shwan Lei Yi – turned up to hear the charges at Bahan township police station where they were granted bail. A ninth member of the group, Lin Htet Naing, was absent as he is travelling abroad, according to police.
Bahan township police commander Thein Win said the police intend to press charges against the demonstration ringleaders. He added that if Lin Htet Naing does not return soon to Burma, he will be considered a fugitive.
“We don’t know when Lin Htet Naing will return home, but if he’s not back by 27 May we will have to declare him a fugitive,” the police commander said. “Unless he is travelling for a legitimate reason – in which case, he’ll need to submit a letter of explanation.”
To the date, 17 individuals have been charged under the Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Law for participating in the anti-war protest at the Tamwe roundabout in Rangoon on 12 May. If found guilty, defendants face a penalty of one month in prison or a 30,000 kyat (US$22) fine.
The Swedish embassy in Yangon on Monday issued a statement, saying it is “alarmed” by the arrests of the organisers of the peaceful rally.
“The Embassy is particularly concerned about credible reports that unknown civilians used violence against the protesters, without intervention from the police, and despite the fact that the protesters had agreed to disperse and leave the location,” the statement said in reference to accusations that a group of Burmese nationalists had turned out at the demonstration, stood behind the riot police, and hurled insults and projectiles at the anti-war protesters.
On Tuesday, 391 civil society organisations released a joint statement demanding the release of all the activists who were apprehended.
Meanwhile, 13 high school students in Pegu Region’s Nattalin Township were briefly detained by police for staging a rally on Tuesday demanding peace and an end to the civil war in Burma.
The students gathered at the town’s Myatmuni Pagoda where they held a candlelit vigil and began marching to the town’s centre, chanting demands to end military offensives in Shan and Kachn states, and provide relief for those displaced by the ongoing conflict.
Their march ended when the youngsters arrived at Bogyoke Park and were confronted by police who dragged them into police vans. A freelance reporter working for The Voice Weekly news journal was also detained at the scene.
“We sought official permission on Monday to stage a rally, but the authorities said we should have submitted the application at least 48 hours in advance, so we could not comply,” said student union member Yan Naung Kyi Win.
Yi Wai Yan, one of the Nattalin student leaders who was charged, called on Burma’s commander-in-chief to halt military offensives in ethnic regions.
“The commander-in-chief is the only person in the country who has the power to stop the conflict. We urge the army to stop the offensives — stop the war,” he said.
Reporting from Nattalin by Min Nyo