Four shop owners in Kachin state have been arrested and hit with charges by officials for using a video camera at a protest last month.
Banyar Naing, Phwar Phwar, Ar Yu and Pusu were arrested on 20 November after leading a protest in Nyaungbin market in Mohnyin town.
Police accused the four protestors of filming an argument between officials and demonstrations, who were protesting a decision made by municipal authorities to relocate Nyaungbin market. Authorities detained the shop owners on charges of breaching Burma’s notorious Video Act.
The footage of the quarrel was later distributed to the public, according to a Mohnyin resident who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
“They filmed all of the conversation with the officials and the police somehow found out they have been selling it,” said the resident.
On 18 November, an estimated 500 shop owners at Nyaungbin market were protesting against the municipal authorities’s decision to relocate the vendors to another market in the town.
The leaders of the demonstration sought official permission to stage the protest on 20 November. After being denied permission from local authorities, organisers decided to hold the protest on 18 November.
“During the protest on November 18, the [officials] convinced shop owners to postpone it until November 30 and that they would try to meet their demands before the date. But then, they arrested the leaders,” said the resident.
The four are being held at Mohnyin police station.
Officials at the police station were station was unavailable for comments.
While the government continues to prosecute activists and demonstrators under existing laws, observers have pointed out that protestors who back the ruling party’s policies have been allowed to rally without permits and have not been charged.