SYCB Joins Myitkyina Protests to Demand Free Speech

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Members of the Students and Youth Congress of Burma (SYCB), an umbrella group of youth organizations from across the country, joined a protest in the Kachin State capital Myitkyina on Monday to demand judicial justice and freedom of expression.

The protest—the latest to be triggered by last week’s sentencing of two young activists found guilty of violating Burma’s Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Law for staging an anti-war street performance in June—was organized by local Kachin youth groups.

Paul Lu and Seng Nu Pan, the organizers of the street performance, were both sentenced to 15 days in prison on September 2. Paul Lu later received an extra three months for handing a broken set of scales to the presiding judge in protest at the decision.

Say Pu, the secretary-2 of the SYCB, explained that his group decided to join the Myitkyina protests because it believed the sentence against the two Kachin activists violated their human rights.

“I think this sentence is unfair. [Paul Lu] even received an additional prison term. From a human rights perspective, this is unacceptable. That’s why we joined the protest to show our support,” Say Pu told NMG.

Regarding the reaction of the authorities to SYCB’s presence, Say Pu said that some members of the group had been questioned.

“They asked about our organization, our address, and so on,” he said.

The protesters, who have gathered three times in the past week, said they had four key demands—freedom of speech and expression, a fair and just legal system, understanding of the difficulties of people displaced by conflict, and an end to the civil war as soon as possible.

Twelve ethnic members of SYCB joined the protest in Myitkyina from Yangon.

“We are demanding freedom of expression because we have been denied this basic right. Youths in Yangon and Mandalay have been charged for their struggle for freedom of expression. So how can we speak about how we are suffering? How can we speak about human rights abuses?” Sut Seng Htoi, the spokesperson of the Kachin Youth Movement, said to NMG.

According to Sut Seng Htoi, the participation of SYCB members in the protest is a source of strength for Kachin youths.

“The participation of SYCB is great because these youths have had the experience of being charged by the authorities. We can work together to build a genuine federal democratic country. We can cooperate in non-violent demonstrations, which are a part of democratic culture,” Sut Seng Htoi added.

Meanwhile, the authorities have continued to press charges against activists. At a protest held last Thursday, Kachin activists N’khun La Nu and Malan Hkar Mai were charged by police for holding unauthorized placards.

Nearly 300 people, including Kachin civilians displaced by conflict, members of various Kachin youth groups and civil society organizations, local people, and SYCB members, joined the protest in Myitkyina on Monday.