Imprisoned Anti-Statue Activists Denied Access to Visitors

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Six Karenni youths who have been imprisoned for protesting against a statue of Burmese independence leader General Aung San in the Kayah (Karenni) State capital Loikaw have been denied the right to receive visits from their families or supporters.

Khun Bernard Bok, the chairman of the Kayan New Generation, told NMG that he tried to visit the six detainees on Monday but was denied permission.

“We sought permission, but they didn’t allow us to see our friends. The officer in charge told us they [the detained activists] shouted in prison yesterday, so he could not allow us to see our friends. I asked the officer what they shouted, but he didn’t answer. We waited from 9am to 11am, but we weren’t allowed in to see our friends,” he said.

A lawyer for the activists said he didn’t know why the new restriction had been imposed.

“I don’t know about it in detail, but I have already made a formal complaint against the decision to prevent these Karenni youths from seeing other people,” said defense lawyer Saw Khu Talay, adding that he still has access to his clients.

“You can ask them about it directly tomorrow, when they appear for a court hearing,” he added.

A court in Loikaw decided last month that there was sufficient evidence to proceed with a case against the six youths, who have been charged with violating Article 10 of Burma’s Citizens Privacy and Security Law.

The defendants—Khu Kyu Phae Kay (aka) Guugu, Khu Re Du, Khun Thomas, Myo Hlaing Win, Pyar Lay and Ko Deede—have all been charged under the same law and are scheduled to attend their 13th court hearing on September 24.

Other youth activists are expected to turn out in large numbers during the court hearing in a show of support.

“We are going to Loikaw Township Court to show our support. We will meet them there, but we won’t make any problems. We will go to see them. We want to know what happened to them. We’re sad that we’re not allowed to see them in prison,” Khun Bernard Bok told NMG.

The charges against the Karenni youths date back to March 25, when they released a statement accusing the state’s chief minister, finance minister and other officials involved in erecting the Aung San statue of betraying Karenni history and sowing disunity among ethnic people.

If they are found guilty, they face a sentence of six months to three years in prison and a fine of
300,000 to 1,500,000 kyat (US$198 to $988).