Kachin Youths Protest Unjust Legal System, Lack of Free Speech

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Around 300 people gathered in the Kachin State capital Myitkyina on Thursday to demand legal justice and freedom of expression in the wake of a court decision to find two anti-war activists guilty of violating Burma’s Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Law.

Kachin youths Paul Lu and Seng Nu Pan were sentenced on Monday to 15 days in prison for holding an unauthorized street performance in June to mark the eighth anniversary of the war in Kachin State. That protest focused on the plight of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and other civilians affected by the conflict.

At the protest on Thursday, demonstrators made four key demands.

“First, we want [the government] to know about the social problems of IDPs in the camps. Second, we want freedom of expression. Third, we want a just legal system, because currently there is no free and fair legal system. And fourth, it’s time to stop the civil war. All stakeholders need to consider the difficulties of people in this country. That’s why we demonstrate today,” said Sut Seng Htoi, a spokesperson for the Kachin Youth Movement.

The protest, which took place in a public park with a statue of Burmese independence hero General Aung San, was attended by members of the Kachin Youth Movement and other Kachin civil society organizations.

One IDP who took part in the protest said that he was upset because the authorities treated the street performance in June, which expressed the feelings of IDPs and described the difficulties of their lives, as a crime.

“Sayar [teacher] Paul Lu and Sayarma Seng Nu Pan tried to describe our hardships and how we feel, and the authorities charged them as criminals. So there is no freedom of expression. I think there is something wrong with the legal system, which seems to bend in the wrong direction,” N’hkun La Nu, who is an IDP, said to NMG.

Protesters shouted slogans to make their demands clear: “We want a free and fair legal system.” “We don’t want unjust judges.” “Listen to the feelings of IDPs.”

The protest organizers said they also plan to demonstrate on September 6 and September 9.