Anti-Statue Activists Appear in Court

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The six Karenni youths vowed to continue their opposition to a statue erected in honor of Burmese independence hero Aung San.

By NAW DWE EH KHU / KANTARAWADDY TIMES

Six Karenni activists opposed to a statue erected in honor of Burmese independence hero Aung San in the Kayah (Karenni) State capital Loikaw appeared in court for their first hearing on Monday.

Speaking to reporters at the Loikaw District courthouse, the defendants called on the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) government to recognize the case against them as unjust.

“This is our first court hearing, so I don’t have much to say. But to the NLD government, I want to say just one thing: This is a not fair trial, because we are just expressing our real Karenni history,” said Khun Thomas, one of the six defendants.

The six youths are facing charges under Section 10 of the Citizens’ Privacy and Security Law for denouncing state government officials in a statement they released on March 25 as “political criminals” and “traitors of the Karenni nation” for allowing the statue to be erected.

Thet Aung, a representative of the state government, didn’t file a lawsuit against them until May 17, and it wasn’t until June 2 that Khu Kyu Phe Kay, one of the six defendants, was arrested.

The other five—Sitt Mone (aka) Deede, Myo Hlaing Win, Jhon Paul, Khu Reedu and Khun Thomas—were taken into custody on June 21 as they were attending the 144th Karenni National Day celebration at Kay Htoe Bo hall in Chikel village-tract in Loikaw Township. 

Despite their arrest, the six activists vowed to continue their fight against the statue.

“The state government issued an order to block our activities. That means they have deprived us of our freedom of speech and our right to protest. They are trying to intimidate us. But our movement and activities against the Gen. Aung San statue will continue,” Myo Hlaing Win told Kantarawaddy Times.

On June 7, a letter signed by seven Karenni youth leaders expressed support for the six detained activists, and on June 12, a petition calling for their release was signed by more than 80 people. A large number of supporters were also present at the court hearing on Monday.

If they are found guilty, the six defendants face from six months to three years in prison and a fine of 600,000-1,500,000 kyat (US$390-$977).

The next hearing will be held on July 3.

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