Activists Demand Release of Karen Martyrs’ Day Organizers

Thursday, September 12, 2019

The arrest on Monday night of Karen rights activist Naw Ohn Hla and two other people involved in organizing a ceremony to commemorate Karen Martyrs’ Day last month has been condemned as a blow to Burma’s faltering peace process.

In a statement released on Wednesday, the Karen Peace Support Network (KPSN) demanded that the activists be freed to restore trust in the government’s efforts to achieve peace and reconciliation in the country.

The statement said that the move created “doubts and suspicion in the hearts of Karen people” and called on the government to accept diversity and respect different religions.

“Arresting the organizers of the Karen Martyrs’ Day ceremony can impact on the national reconciliation process and trust-building because it shows they [the government] don’t respect the important days, traditions and culture of ethnic people. It causes disunity,” said KPSN spokesperson Saw Alex.

“The task of the government is to make more unity and understanding among the different ethnic groups. And the government is failing to do this,” Saw Alex told NMG.

Karen Martyrs’ Day is commemorated each year on August 12 to mark the day in 1950 that Karen revolutionary leader Saw Ba Oo Gyi was killed in an ambush by the Burma Army along with several of his colleagues.

Naw Ohn Hla, who is the chairperson of the Karen Women’s Union, is facing charges of violating Article 20 of Burma’s Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Law for organizing a ceremony to mark the 69th anniversary of Karen Martyrs’ Day in Yangon.

The charges were laid by a police officer from the Kyauktada Township police station in Yangon. Naw Ohn Hla and the other defendants in the case are currently being held in the city’s notorious Insein prison.

Other groups also released statements to condemn the police action, including the KNU Concerned Group, which is led by former Karen National Union vice chairman Naw Zipporah Sein, and the International Karen Organization.