Army Sues Kachin Protesters for Defamation
The Northern Command of the Myanmar Army has sued three Kachin youth who led a sit-in protest against ongoing clashes in Kachin State for defamation.
On Wednesday, a local court issued summons against the three—Zau Jat of the Kachin National Social Development Association, director Nang Pu of the Htoi Gender and Development Foundation, and lawyer Lum Zawng.
“We have been sued and summoned by the court to appear tomorrow,” Zau Jat told The Irrawaddy.
“If we are to be sued, we should only be sued under Article 19 of the Peaceful Assembly and Procession Law. We are surprised that they sued us for defamation. We didn’t defame them,” said Zau Jat.
“We only called for enabling the rescue of trapped civilians. We don’t know what was defamatory to them,” added Zau Jat.
The defamation charge allows bail and carries a maximum two years’ imprisonment and a fine.
The Irrawaddy was not able to contact the Northern Command for comment.
Police Major Myat Moe of the Myitkyina Township police station said that the command might have directly filed a complaint with the court.
On April 30, more than 3,000 Kachin locals staged a protest march against ongoing clashes between the Myanmar Army and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) in Kachin State. Around 3,000 Kachin youth also staged a sit-in protest from April 30 to May 6, calling for the rescue of thousands of displaced persons trapped by the fighting.
Clashes that broke out on April 11 displaced more than 6,000 people in Tanai, Injangyang, Mogaung and Hpakant townships.
After negotiations between the Kachin State chief minister and the protestors on May 3, the Kachin State government agreed to intervene. On May 6, it rescued 160 villagers in Hpakant.
They fled their village following the clashes on April 11, but they were brought back to their village by the military column and had been trapped in the village since then.
Most of those trapped by the fighting have now escaped, but around 1,000 remain trapped in Tanai Township.
On May 9, lawyer Lum Zawng, and another protest leader Sut Seng Htoi were fined 30,000 kyats each by the Myitkyina Township court for breaching Article 19 of Peaceful Assembly and Procession Law.