Burma Campaign UK today called on Aung San Suu Kyi to immediately release 14 year old child Mai Cho Min Htwe, and to repeal the Unlawful Associations Act which was used to put him in jail.
Mai Cho Min Htwe was tortured and convicted without a trial on 30th October for allegedly being involved with an ethnic armed group, the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA). The TNLA is an ethnic armed group based in northern Shan State that is engaged in armed conflict with the Burmese Army.
The Burmese Army Light Infantry Division 105 arrested Mai Cho Min Htwe on 5th October after allegedly finding a photograph of him in a TNLA uniform while searching the boy’s mobile phone during a traffic stop.
According to Mai Cho Min Htwe’s lawyer, military officers reportedly interrogated Mai Cho Min Htwe overnight, beat him, and deprived him of sleep, food, and water. This amounts to torture. He was charged under Article 17(1) of the Unlawful Associations Act. On 30th October, he was sentenced to two years in prison.
Even if there is a photo of him in a uniform, that isn’t sufficient evidence for a conviction and as a 14 year old if he were in the TNLA he would be a child soldier and should be returned home to his family, not tortured and sent to jail.
An unlawful association is defined as one that “encourages or aids persons to commit acts of violence or intimidation, or of which the members habitually commit such acts” or the President has declared it as such.
The Act was drafted during colonial times, and it was originally used to oppress those who opposed colonial rule. It has been used by successive governments in Burma to oppress people from forming an organisation or working with organisations which were declared illegal by the military regime. It is also most commonly used against members of ethnic minorities in Burma. The Unlawful Associations Act is a serious threat to freedom of association and human rights in the country, and the law should be abolished. To date, Aung San Suu Kyi has refused to do so.
“Aung San Suu Kyi does not control the military but she does have the power to release Mai Cho Min Htwe and does have the parliamentary majority needed to repeal the Unlawful Associations Act,” said Anna Roberts, Executive Director at Burma Campaign UK. “This is another example of why the Unlawful Associations Act has to be repealed immediately. By keeping repressive laws in place, Aung San Suu Kyi is allowing these unlawful arrests to continue. It’s time for Aung San Suu Kyi to get on with repealing repressive laws and releasing all political prisoners from jail.”