Unlawful Associations Act Must Be Withdrawn: Kachin Leaders

The arrest of people providing assistance to displaced communities is undermining peace efforts, Kachin civil society representatives say.


Thursday, November 8, 2018

Following the release of 15 people including Christian clergypersons detained by the Tatmadaw, Kachin leaders say that such arrests of civilians harm work toward peace in Burma.

Representatives of the Kachin community spoke out after the Burma Army’s Light Infantry Division 101 arrested the members of the Kachin Baptist Convention near Nam Sang Yan internally displaced people’s camp on the Burma-China border last week. They were held under suspicion of having ties to the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) before being released on November 4.

Member of the Peace-talk Creation Group (PCG) Lamai Gun Ja told NMG that such arrests and accusations “hurt mutual trust in the peace process.”

As a result, “people’s trust on army and government will be weak,” he said.

The PCG said that they helped secure the release of the detained clergypersons after receiving a request from the detainees’ families to get involved. Lamai Gun Ja said that PCG also reached out to the Kachin State government and the state’s security affairs minister for assistance.

“Civilians are accused of being linked with armed groups and are being arrested in conflict areas,” Lamai Gun Ja pointed out. The military and other authorities “should not cast doubt on every Kachin person. They should not arrest them. If they really want peace, they should not.”

Lawyer Lamong Seng Tu predicts that as long as Burma’s peace process remains deadlocked, locals will continue to be targeted and investigated under laws like Article 17(1) of the Unlawful Associations Act, which punishes those suspected of affiliation with “unlawful associations.”

“It’s impossible for local people to avoid armed organizations, because of where they are living.  People will continue to suffer. […] They will have to face this problem until the unlawful associations act is withdrawn,” he explained.

These arrests are a clear human rights violation, added Khon Ja of the Kachin Peace Network.

“They say they are doing it for security, but it disturbs civilians’ rights. It’s a threatening act,” she said of the allegations under Article 17(1), pointing out that it largely affects individuals and organizations providing assistance to those displaced by the ongoing war.