Kachin Activists Charged With Defamation: ‘This Is Not a Fair Trial’

 A Myitkyina court has decided to proceed with a case filed by a military official against Kachin Youth Movement leaders.


Wednesday, September 5, 2018

A Myitkyina court decided to proceed in a criminal defamation case against Kachin anti-war activists on Monday, in a move that has been criticized by the defendants as lacking evidence.

Zau Jat, Nang Pu, and Lum Zawng organized a public demonstration in the Kachin State capital in late April and early May, calling on the government to end fighting in Burma’s north, provide assistance to internally displaced people, and allow these communities to reach safety. The group called itself the Kachin Youth Movement.

Days later, on May 8, Lt-Col Myo Min Oo of the Burma Army’s northern military command filed a case against the three activists, claiming that the youth leaders had defamed the Tatmadaw in statements they made during their demonstration.

Zau Jat criticized the plaintiff’s argument, as well as the court’s decision to move forward with the prosecution on Monday.

“There was no firm evidence that came out when the plaintiff was questioned in the court. In my opinion, the court should not have accepted this case,” he said. “Why is the judicial system not running independently? Who is behind it? This is not a fair trial.”

The statements which are being called into question are allegations that Zau Jat accused the army of acting without respect to Kachin communities, that Nang Pu said the Burma Army had killed civilians and blocked their escape from a conflict area, and that Lum Zawng called for an end to aerial bombardment by the military.

The three activists’ trial will begin on September 6. If convicted, they face up to two years in prison and a fine.

More than 100,000 people have been displaced by armed conflict since a 17-year ceasefire broke down between the Kachin Independence Army and the Burmese military in 2011.