Six activists have each been sentenced to imprisonment for four years and four months for staging a protest outside the Chinese embassy in Rangoon in December. They had been denouncing the shooting by police of villager Khin Win at the Latpadaung copper mining project site in Monywa.
Robert San Aung, the lawyer for the group, said that the six defendants – Naw Ohn Hla, Tin Htut Paing, Than Swe, Sein Htwe, Lay Lay and former army captain Nay Myo Zin – had been found guilty of four charges by a court in Dagon Township, Rangoon Division.
“The activists were found guilty of the charges and were each sentenced to one year with labour under Penal Code Article 353 for disturbing an official in the line of duty; one year with labour under Article 147 for rioting; two years with labour under Article 505(b) for sedition; and additional four months under Article 18 [of the Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Law] – in total, four years and four months,” said Robert San Aung.
The six were arrested and charged after they led a protest and scuffled with police in front of the Chinese embassy in Rangoon on 29 December last year. Khin Win had been shot and killed by police at Latpadaung on 22 December.
Speaking to DVB by phone after the passing of the verdict, Naw Ohn Hla said the government is systematically jailing activists.
“We were charged with disturbing an official in the line of duty, but in fact it was the police who blocked the public street where we were protesting. We did not violate any law. Since we were protesting about an incident that actually took place, there was no need to charge us with Article 505(b) for sedition,” she said.
“The government is clearly jailing activists intentionally to keep us clear of the 2015 elections,” she said.
Nay Myo Zin told reporters waiting outside of the courthouse that he hoped severe consequences would befall the officials responsible for jailing activists.
“I pray that a natural disaster will fall upon the place inhabited by the people who unfairly sentence activists to lengthy prison terms – those who ordered these sentences and are clinging onto dictatorship,” he said.
According to a recent report by the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners – Burma (AAPPB), there are currently 157 prisoners of conscience in Burma, with 453 activists facing charges, mostly under the Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Law and Penal Code Article 505(b).