Three Women Charged for March in Support of Naw Ohn Hla

Friday, October 4, 2019

Police in Yangon’s Kyauktada Township have pressed charges against three women for marching in support of prominent activist Naw Ohn Hla and two others who were sentenced to prison on Wednesday for violating Burma’s Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Law.

The three women, who are also being charged under the same law, marched from Mahabandula Park to the court in Kyauktada where Naw Ohn Hla and two ethnic Karen youths were appearing for a hearing on September 27.

According to Democracy, Peace and Women (DPW), the civil society organization to which two of the women belong, police informed them of the charges by phone.

“A police officer called one of our members, Daw Sein Htwe, to tell her that she was being charged under Article 19 of the Peaceful Assembly Law for walking from Mahabandula Park to the court on the day of Naw Ohn Hla’s hearing,” DPW secretary Min Nay Htoo told NMG.

All three women—Sein Htwe and Zar Chi Lin from DPW and Ler Shee Htoo, of the Karen Women’s Union (KWU)—were asked to go to the police station so the investigation against them could proceed.

However, according to Min Nay Htoo, so far none of the women have turned themselves in.

“If they arrest any of our members, we will all go to the police station. We will all turn ourselves in. This is an unfair case. We all took part in the march that day, so we will all face charges together,” said the DPW secretary.

In fact, a large number of people took part in the march, many of them carrying Karen flags. Many others, including human rights activists and members of other ethnic groups, also marched on October 2 when Naw Ohn Hla and the two Karen youths were sentenced.

Critics said that ongoing efforts to prosecute activists for exercising their free speech were harming the country’s reconciliation efforts.

“Not only the Karen, but also every other ethnic group in the country, must have equal rights. Oppression is continuing. It’s not good for our country,” said Min Nay Htoo.

DPW leader Naw Ohn Hla and the two Karen youths, Saw Elbert Cho and S’thein Zaw Min, were charged with unlawful assembly for their leading role in holding a Karen Martyr’s Day ceremony in front of Yangon’s city hall on August 12.

They were found guilty and sentenced to 15 days in prison on October 2. However, as they had been held in custody without bail since the charges were first laid, they were released from prison the same day.