BURMA: Former activist monk and demonstrators among detainees in wave of arrests December 6, 2012 ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION – URGENT APPEALS PROGRAMME


http://www.humanrights.asia/news/urgent-appeals/AHRC-UAC-199-2012

 

BURMA: Former activist monk and demonstrators among detainees in wave of arrests


 

December 6, 2012

ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION – URGENT APPEALS PROGRAMME

Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-UAC-199-2012

6 December 2012
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BURMA: Former activist monk and demonstrators among detainees in wave of arrests

ISSUES: Arbitrary arrest and detention; human rights defenders; rule of law
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AHRC WEBSITE: BURMA PAGE
http://www.humanrights.asia/countries/burma

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Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission is concerned by a recent wave of arrests in Burma, signaling that continuation of repressive practices from earlier periods of direct military rule. Among those arrested are a number of leaders of recent demonstrations against a copper mining project in the north of the country, and a former monk who after his release from prison at the start of the year has been subjected to constant harassment and abuse. We are calling for the release of all these persons who have done nothing other than exercise their rights to participate in social life at a time that the government of Burma claims to be democratizing.

CASE NARRATIVE:

In recent days authorities in Burma have carried out a wave of arrests of human rights activists, including leaders of protests against a copper mine in the north of the country, at the Letpadaung Mountain range (see AHRC-STM-246-2012), and a former monk who led antigovernment protests in 2007.

Villagers in Letpadaung began action against the expansion of copper mining in the region in July 2012. As people in other parts of the country have learned about their struggle they have also joined in calls for the mine operation–which is a joint venture of an army-owned conglomerate and a foreign company–to be halted, on grounds that it displaces local villagers and pollutes the environment. At the end of November, protests against the operation spread to cities, including Rangoon, Mandalay, Monywa, Pakokku and Magwe.

Although the draconian 2011 Peaceful Assembly and Marching Law requires that people organizing rallies submit requests for approval with extensive details of persons who will assemble, reasons for assembling and texts of speeches that will be given, the demonstrators declined to obtain these permits on grounds that they should not be required to obtain permission to assemble and march peacefully on human rights issues.

Simultaneously with a violent police assault on protestors encamped in areas nearby the mine site that left dozens of monks and civilians hospitalized, which obtained international news media attention, on 29 November 2012 police in Rangoon arrested six leaders of one rally in support of the anti-mine demonstrators. The six include Naw Ohn Hla, who led a prayer campaign for the release of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in earlier years. On December 3, two more protest leaders, Ko Moe Thwe and Ko Aung Soe, were also detained. The demonstrators have been charged with offences against public tranquility under the Penal Code and have been transferred to prisons.

The AHRC is receiving reports of arrests in other parts of the country for similar “unauthorized” protests. Among them, four shopkeepers were reportedly imprisoned in Kachin State for taking footage of a demonstration over the relocation of a marketplace.

Meanwhile, police in Rangoon have also arrested and charged a former monk, U Gambira, known by the layperson’s name Ko Nyi Nyi Lwin, for attempting previously to reopen monasteries that were closed following the 2007 monk-led protests, of which he was at the forefront. According to information available to the AHRC, around 15 police came to arrest the former monk at his home, after which his family was told that he was sent to the central prison. However, when they went to the prison they were also told that he was not there.

After release from prison in January 2012, Gambira was denied residency at any monastery, whereupon in an attempt to remain a monk he entered the premises of a number temples closed since the 2007 events. It is over those alleged trespasses that he has reportedly been charged. He was later forced to disrobe because he could not find anywhere to reside as a monk.

Further details are provided in the sample letter below.

BACKGROUND INFORMATION:

The AHRC has issued a number of statements on the Letpadaung copper mine protests, and is following the issue closely. More details and commentary can be found on the Burma page of the AHRC website: http://www.humanrights.asia/countries/burma .

Among cases on the website are a number of interventions concerning the case of U Gambira, who was released in January 2012 after being imprisoned for his role in the 2007 antigovernment protests (AHRC-UAU-004-2012). Gambira suffered brutal torture in detention and in October 2011 the AHRC also issued an open letter expressing concern for his health while in prison (AHRC-OLT-013-2011). Since his release he has been subjected to constant harassment, as the AHRC reported previously (AHRC-UAC-044-2012).

Naw Ohn Hla has also been subjected to repeated legal action and other forms of harassment over a number of years for leading a prayer campaign to release Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. See: AS-266-2007.

REQUESTED ACTION:

Please call for the release from detention of all persons detained in recent weeks for doing no more than exercising their fundamental human rights, which the government of Burma claims to now be respecting. Please note that for the purposes of the letter Burma is referred to by its official name of Myanmar, and Rangoon as Yangon.

Please be informed that the AHRC is writing separate letters to the UN Special Rapporteur on Myanmar, and the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, as well as to the regional human rights office for Southeast Asia calling for interventions into this case.

SAMPLE LETTER:

Dear ___________,

MYANMAR: Release arrested rights activists

I am extremely disappointed to hear that in recent days human rights defenders in Myanmar have been arrested for no more than exercising the fundamental rights that the government of Myanmar claims to now be respecting, in contrast to its predecessor. Arrests of this sort bespeak the continuance of authoritarian practices from earlier periods and do not bode well for Myanmar’s democratization. I call for the release of all these persons. Among them I want to draw attention to the following cases.

Simultaneously with a violent police assault on protestors encamped in areas nearby the Letpadaung Mountains copper mine site, which left dozens of monks and civilians hospitalized and obtained international news media attention, on 29 November 2012 police in Yangon arrested six leaders of one rally in support of the anti-mine demonstrators, including Naw Ohn Hla. On December 3, two more protest leaders, Ko Moe Thwe and Ko Aung Soe, were also detained. The demonstrators have been charged with offences against public tranquility under sections 500 and 505(b) of the Penal Code and have been transferred to prisons.

I am aware that the demonstrators were required under the draconian 2011 Peaceful Assembly and Marching Law to obtain permission for these assemblies; however, I reject the contents of this law and the onus that it places on demonstrators as contrary to fundamental human rights principles, and support the rights of these persons to assemble and express their views peacefully without requiring that they submit extensive documentation to the police and obtain prior approval for their actions.

I am also aware that even if their demonstrations constituted an offence under that law then they ought to have been charged accordingly, and not under the sections of the Penal Code, which apply only to situations in which public safety is endangered, and which constitute more severe offences with more serious penalties.

Additionally, I want to express my concern about the circumstances of a former monk, U Gambira, known by the layperson’s name Ko Nyi Nyi Lwin, who was reportedly arrested for attempting to reopen monasteries that were closed following the 2007 protests of which he was at the forefront. According to information I have received, around 15 police led by the commander of the Thingangyun Township Police Station, Inspector Than Zaw Oo, came to arrest the former monk at the beginning of December 2012.

U Gambira having disrobed because he could not find any temple in which to reside had been staying at home quietly with his family when arrested. The police said that he has been charged under sections 447, 448 and 454 of the Penal Code with trespass, for attempting to reopen and occupy monastic premises in three townships closed after the 2007 protests, following his release from prison in January 2012. According to the police, the order for his arrest “came from above” but they did not say from where.

Gambira is a victim of extreme forms of torture who is continuing to suffer physical and mental ailments as a consequence of his previous incarceration and treatment. His re-imprisonment is an act that demonstrates the extreme insensitivity of the authorities in Myanmar to the incidence of torture and its aftermath. Furthermore, the charges brought against him now are completely incomprehensible, given that he had not continued to attempt to enter and reside in monasteries after he disrobed.

According to Gambira’s family, after his arrest the contacted police as to his whereabouts and were told that he had been transferred to Insein Central Prison, but when they went to the prison staff at the gate said that he was not inside.

I call for the immediate and unconditional release of U Gambira, Naw Ohn Hla, Ko Moe Thwe, Ko Aung Soe and all other persons detained in recent days in this spate of arrests of human rights activists and supporters. I urge the government of Myanmar that if it is sincere about its democratization process, it cease and desist from this sort of behaviour that is a reflection not of an administration looking forward, but of one looking backwards.

Yours sincerely,

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PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO:

1. U Thein Sein
President of Myanmar
President Office
Office No.18
Naypyitaw
MYANMAR

2. U Hla Min
Minister for Home Affairs
Ministry of Home Affairs
Office No. 10
Naypyitaw
MYANMAR
Tel: +95 67 412 079/ 549 393/ 549 663
Fax: +95 67 412 439

3. Dr. Tun Shin
Attorney General
Office of the Attorney General
Office No. 25
Naypyitaw
MYANMAR
Tel: +95 67 404 088/ 090/ 092/ 094/ 097
Fax: +95 67 404 146/ 106

4. U Kyaw Kyaw Htun
Director General
Myanmar Police Force
Ministry of Home Affairs
Office No. 10
Naypyitaw
MYANMAR
Tel: +95 67 412 079/ 549 393/ 549 663
Fax: +95 1 549 663 / 549 208

5. U Win Mra
Chairman
Myanmar National Human Rights Commission
27 Pyay Road
Hlaing Township
Yangon
MYANMAR
Tel: +95 1 659668
Fax: +95 1 659668

6. Ko Ko Hlaing
Chief Political Advisor
Office of the President
Naypyitaw
MYANMAR
Tel-+95 1 532 501 ext-605 / 654 668
Fax-+95 1 532 500, 654 668

Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Programme 
Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) (ua@ahrc.asia)

Document Type :
Urgent Appeal Case

Document ID :
AHRC-UAC-199-2012

Countries :

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