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MYITKYINA, Kachin State — Two Kachin youth activists facing criminal defamation charges after staging a protest calling for the evacuation to safety of civilians displaced by conflict in Kachin State will appeal to the regional court, seeking to have those charges dropped.
The two men, Lum Zawng and Zau Jat, and fellow activist Nang Pu, were sued by the Burmese Army’s Northern Regional Command after they organised a mass rally in Myitkyina at the end of last month demanding safe passage for civilians trapped by fighting between the Burmese armed forces and the Kachin Independence Army.
Under the Penal Code’s section 500 clause, covering defamation, the accused face up to two years in prison.
Mone Seng Tu, the lawyer for Lum Zawng and Zau Jat, said he intends to lodge an appeal to the Kachin State regional court to have the defamation charges brought at the Myitkyina Township Court dropped.
“We are likely to submit the appeal [on Wednesday] mainly on the grounds that the charges are invalid. We will reach out to the regional court to dismiss [the trial] set to commence at the township court,” said Mong Seng Tu.
The third defendant, Nang Pu, on Monday sought and was granted bail with a 500,000 kyats ($370) bond at the Myitkyina Township Court.
“At the press conference [at the end of the rally] I said that the Burmese military denied passage to the trapped civilians and that they are arresting, torturing and killing them. It wasn’t meant to mislead the public when I said that, but I was merely trying to let the world know the plight of the [displaced civilians],” said Nang Pu.
Lum Zawng and another rally organiser, Sut Seng Htoi, were also prosecuted by the Myitkyina Township police under the Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Law and were subsequently sentenced to pay a 30,000 kyats fine each following a guilty verdict by the court in Myitkyina, the Kachin State capital.
Recent weeks have seen several protests against the conflict in northern Burma, where renewed fighting has displaced thousands since April. In addition to Myitkyina, police have detained protesters in Yangon, Mandalay and Bago regions.