Loikaw Court Decides to Proceed with Case against Anti-Statue Activists

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

A court in the Kayah (Karenni) State capital Loikaw has decided that there is sufficient evidence to proceed with a case against six Karenni youths who have been charged under Burma’s Citizens Privacy and Security Law for their criticism of state government officials.

The decision was made on Monday at the ninth hearing in the case, which is related to the group’s opposition to a statue of Burmese independence hero General Aung San that was erected in Loikaw earlier this year.

“The judge has approved the case. They have been charged under Article 10 of the Citizens Privacy and Security Law. So we have to continue to face this case in court. The next hearing will take place on September 4,” defense lawyer Saw Khu Talay told NMG.

The six youths were accused of violating the law after they released a statement on March 24 calling state government officials “political criminals” and “traitors of the Karenni nation” for allowing the statue to be erected.

“The law is supposed to protect people, but this law oppresses people. What I want to say to the chief minister and the finance minister of Kayah State is that you are short-sighted people for using this law to oppress people,” said Deede, one of the six defendants.

Khu Kyu Phae Kay (aka) Guugu, Khu Re Du, Khun Thomas, Myo Hlaing Win, Pyar Lay and Deede have all been charged under the law, which carries a penalty of between six months and three years in prison and a fine of 600,000-1,500,000 kyat (US$390-$977).

Saw Khu Talay, the group’s lawyer, also denounced the decision as a misuse of the law.

“The law is intended to protect the privacy and security of citizens. Community-based organizations and civil society organizations demanded it, and the National League for Democracy government made it happen. Now a group of people is using it as a tool to arrest people,” he said.

According to the Karenni youths, the roots of problems are related to the history of minorities in Burma and the failure of the government to respect the equality of all ethnic groups in the country.

“We aren’t attacking anybody. We are talking about the real history of our state. But the authorities think we are committing a crime. So we have no choice but to face this case in court,” Khun Thomas, another defendant, told NMG.

“The judicial system is not free in our country. Executive authorities are trying to exert influence over the court. There is not enough evidence to prosecute us, but they decided to go ahead with the case anyway,” said Khu Kyu Phae Kay (aka) Guugu, one of the defendants, speaking to NMG soon after the court decision was reached.

The defendants released a statement on the decision that was later recirculated with the signatures of more than 160 Karenni youths. Supporters of the six activists also turned out in force at Monday’s hearing.