Karenni State Govt Sues Youth for Gen Aung San Statue Protest

The youth say the charges are related to a statement they put out months ago, condemning members of the state government as ‘traitors.’


Monday, May 20, 2019

Six Karenni youth activists are being prosecuted at the Loikaw Myoma police station under the State Protection Law by the Karenni State government.

Khun Thomas, who is among the six youth facing charges, said that he has yet to be informed officially by the police, but read about the case in the Karenni media outlet Kantarawaddy Times.

The others implicated are Khu Kyu Phae Kay, Khu Ree Du, Myo Hlaing Win, Pyar Lay and Dee De.

News of the charges spread after the May 14 collapse of talks between youth activists and the Karenni State government regarding the removal of a controversial statue of Gen Aung San in a public park in the state capital of Loikaw.

The youth say that the legal action against them relates back to a statement released on March 25, in which they accused the Karenni State chief minister El Phoung Sho and finance minister Maw Maw of fomenting disunity among ethnic people and destroying Karenni history by pushing ahead with the statue. It described them as “traitors” of the Karenni nation and “enemies” of ethnic unity.

The statement was not affiliated with any organization.

“We released a statement to let people know who was behind this problem, regarding the statue,” Khun Dee De, who signed the statement, told NMG. “Some people supported the statue’s establishment. These supporters don’t understand politics, as well as having been brainwashed. It’s also related to self-interest. These supporters are afraid to oppose it because these people are worried about losing their interests.”

There have been confrontations and disagreements between those who support and oppose the statue since it starting getting built last year.

Khun Thomas said that youth activists were attacked on social media because of their opposition to the statue, and said that it has created a “split” in society.

“It has turned into an inter-ethnic problem. The statue supporters are ethnic Bamar people,” Khun Thomas said. “Regarding the statue, we have arguments and differences between the Bamar and us.”

The Karenni State government has tightened security around the statue over the last week, placing guards in front of it, as well as barbed wire in Kantaheywon Park, where it is located.

“The state government already directed the government’s departments and village administration authorities to immediately report to the government if they see irregular movements at anytime,” Khun Thomas said. “I think if a movement breaks out, the authorities are ready to arrest and control the movement. They are prepared for it.”

NMG tried to call the Karenni State chief minister El Phoung Sho and representatives at the Loikaw Myoma police station for comment but did not receive a response.

Karenni youth announced on February 12 that it would be the People’s Uproar Day in Karenni State, because security forces cracked down on their demonstration against the Gen Aung San statue, which they said should not be erected as long as his promises to the ethnic people remain unfulfilled. Police shot at crowds with rubber bullets and arrested and threatened locals for their participation in the protest.