May 3, 2013

A labour activist has been jailed for 7 and half years after being falsely accused of cutting down trees.

Burma Campaign UK today urged Hugo Swire MP, British Foreign Office Minister with responsibility for Burma to do more to push the military-backed government in Burma to release Myint Soe and all remaining political prisoners in Burma.

The unconditional release of all political prisoners is an essential step towards genuine democracy and freedom in Burma. Regardless of the changes in Burma, almost all the repressive laws which enabled the jailing of political prisoners still remain in place.

To draw attention to the remaining political prisoners, Burma Campaign UK is highlighting the case of a different political prisoner every month. The political prisoner for this month is Myint Soe.

Myint Soe is a labour activist from Burma who campaigns for workers’ rights and helps workers to set up trade unions. He was arrested in March 2013 and sentenced to 7 and half years in prison.

Myint Soe and his colleagues helped farmers in southern Burma to reoccupy their land and build temporary houses. Several years ago the government had confiscated their land. Now the area is controlled by a state-owned paper factory run by a crony company called Shwe Than Lwin.

Myint Soe was sued and falsely accused by the company that he cut eucalyptus trees in the area in order to build houses. Although Myint Soe had witnesses who provided statements that he did not cut any trees, he was arrested. He was charged under The Public Property Protection Act (1947) with the accusation of cutting the trees down, and was sentenced to 7 and half years in Thaton prison, Mon State.

“Framing a labour activist for cutting down trees shows the ridiculous lengths the Burmese government is prepared to go to silence activists,” said Wai Hnin, Campaigns Officer at Burma Campaign UK. “This case shows why a permanent review mechanism is needed to investigate cases of political activists who are wrongfully jailed.”

Action can be taken here.

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