The Women’s Initiative Network for Peace (WIN-Peace) Calls for the Immediate Release of Naw Ohn Hla and Other Women Activists at Monywa, and for an End to Judicial Harassment of Women Activists around Myanmar
Media Release by The Women’s Initiative Network for Peace (WIN-Peace)
The Women’s Initiative Network for Peace (WIN-Peace) calls for the immediate release of Naw Ohn Hla and nine other women who were arrested following a peaceful protest against the Letpadaung copper mine in Monywa, Sagaing Region, on 13 August 2013. WIN-Peace also calls for an end to the judicial harassment of women activists around Myanmar, including Daw Khin Mi Mi Khaing, head of the women’s right organization Wimutti Volunteer Group, a member of the Women Organization Network (WON), and Daw Myint Myint Aye, head of the organization Mettila social support team – a member of WIN-Peace.
Naw Ohn Hla, Khin Mi Mi Khaing and Daw Myint Myint Aye
Naw Ohn Hla, a leading woman activist from Yangon and former member of the National League for Democracy (NLD), and over 50 local villagers gathered in Monywa to call for the suspension of the controversial Chinese-backed Letpadaung copper mine and to amend the 2008 Constitution, and were surrounded by several hundred police. After a tense stand-off, police moved in to arrest Naw Ohn Hla and other protest leaders, pulling them into the back of police trucks. Naw Ohn Hla was seized so violently that her clothing was partially pulled off.
On 29 August 2013, Naw Ohn Hla was found guilty of disturbing public tranquility under Section 505(b) of the Myanmar Penal Code and sentenced to two years in prison with hard labor. She remains to be tried under Section 18 of the Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Law for allegedly holding a protest without permission. She had in fact requested official permission prior to the protest, but was refused. Naw Ohn Hla and the other activists are currently being held in Monywa No. 1 police station. About 60 villagers have been staging a sit-in next to the police station in protest at the arrests. Naw Ohn Hla did not appear in court to hear the verdict because “she does not have faith in the judicial system”.
On 10 June 2013 Daw Khin Mi Mi Khaing and Daw Myint Myint Aye visited Pae Ma Khan Village in Bago Division to show their support to farmers who ploughed land that had been confiscated by the Myanmar Army almost two decades ago. The day after the demonstration, they were asked to meet the head of the local authority from Nattalin Township in Bago Division. On their arrival, they were arrested and taken to Nattalin Court by the police.
Daw Khin Mi Mi Khaing and Daw Myint Myint Aye were falsely accused of participating in illegal associations, and recruiting new members into their associations. They were charged under Section 6 of the 1988 Law Relating to Forming of Organizations for failing to register their social networks with the government of Myanmar. They were denied bail and sent to Paungde Prison. Family members are worried about their health because Daw Khin Mi Mi Khaing has suffered from hypertension and Daw Myint Myint Aye suffered from a mild stroke last year. Their trials continue at Nattalin Court.
“We are seeing a series of instances of judicial harassment and violence against women human rights defenders and peaceful protestors all around Myanmar, which is very disappointing and disheartening. It is vital that women play a front line role in defending the rights of their communities, and the Myanmar authorities must allow them the space to do so,” said Susanna Hla Hla Soe, head of Women Organization Network of Myanmar.
Despite talk of reform from President Thein Sein, there are still hundreds of political prisoners in Myanmar’s jails – including many women activists – with more arrested each month and the repressive laws that put them in prison remaining in place. The Myanmar National Human Rights Commission should put this issue on their agenda and investigate the judicial harassment of these women activists without delay.
WIN-Peace urges the government of Myanmar to immediately and unconditionally release Naw Ohn Hla and the other nine protesters arrested in Monywa, as well as all other women activists recently detained, including Daw Khin Mi Mi Khaing and Daw Myint Myint Aye, and stresses the importance of allowing women their right to peaceful assembly.
WIN-Peace also calls upon the international community – and in particular the European Union (EU), which has devised a set of guidelines on human rights defenders (HRDs) that provide for intervention by the EU when HRDs are at risk – to take whatever action it can to support and assist these women activists, so that they can continue their valuable human rights work.
Ma Thanda – +95 9 730210 25, +95 9 420055526, +95 9 5025016, +95 9 49231540