A group of 11 activists in Magwe Division, who are being sued in connection with a rally they held in favour of changing Burma’s constitution, had their hearing postponed again on Monday when the plaintiff failed to appear in court.
The defendants in the case, from the National League for Democracy (NLD) and the 88 Generation Peace and Open Society group (88GPOS), are being sued by Magwe Division’s Religious Affairs Director Thaung Shwe allegedly because they trespassed on the grounds of a local Buddhist temple in June when they held their rally.
The constitutional clause in question – Article 436 – is a controversial edict that stipulates changes to the constitution must have the support of 75 percent of MPs, effectively giving military parliamentarians, who are appointed to 25 percent of both houses, a veto over any constitutional change.
The hearing was initially scheduled for 29 September, but this was changed to 13 October when Thaung Shwe failed to appear. As he failed again to show up for the hearing on Monday, the case has been postponed again.
Htay Oo, a local lawyer who is defending the activists, said his clients are frustrated by the delay. “Eleven people are being sued, but as they are not residents of Magwe, but from elsewhere in the region, they have to travel all the way here to attend the hearing which is a huge burden for them. This also applies for us lawyers,” explained Htay Oo, during an interview conducted in front of the courthouse on Monday.
According to Htay Oo, the prosecutors’ repeated failure to appear without explanation has created a situation that is “unfavourable to us on legal grounds”.
“If [it is proven] the prosecutors are deliberately doing this with dubious intentions, then the court may issue an arrest warrant to summon them to the hearing. I hope the court will do what is necessary,” he said.
One of those being sued, Maung Maung Soe of the 88GPOS, told DVB that he and his colleagues have questions about the prosecutors intentions. “We are making our presence here along with our lawyer to signify our respect for the law but the prosecutors for the second time have failed to show up. Why?” he asked.
“When it happened the first time, we could accept this. But they are absent again and now we must assume they are doing this intentionally to play a trick. As government officials, they are supposed to respect and abide by the existing law otherwise we will need to question whether they are really advocates of justice and the rule of law,” added the veteran opposition activist.
The hearing has been rescheduled for 27 October. The trespassing charges were introduced in the Magwe Township Court on 18 September.