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Demo organizers face trial

Police say Friday's peace march was unlawful

Authorities refused to sanction the march (photo by Daniel Wynn) Authorities refused to sanction the march (photo by Daniel Wynn)
  • Daniel Wynn, Yangon
  • Myanmar
  • September 24, 2012
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Authorities have charged at least 10 people for organizing a peace protest in Yangon on Friday after they marched without an official permit.

The rally of about 1,000 people was the largest in Yangon since monks led the unsuccessful ‘Saffron Revolution’ five years ago.

Police arrested the demonstration leaders on Saturday night before releasing them on bail. They face fines of up to 30,000 kyat (US$350) or a prison term of up to one year each if found guilty under new protest laws.

“We will lay the charges against the protest organizers, not because they didn’t rally peacefully but because they were not lawful,” Myint Htwe, a police officer, told a press conference in Yangon on Friday before Saturday's arrests.

Authorities had refused to officially sanction the rally in Yangon – or in the capital Naypyidaw before police stopped about 100 demonstrators boarding buses to go there on Friday morning – meaning protests to mark World Peace Day in Myanmar were effectively illegal.

The demonstrators were protesting over the long-running ethnic wars on the periphery of the country, particularly recent fighting in northernmost Kachin State.

Organizers said they had planned to protest outside the house of the head of the army Vice-Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, whom they suspect of ignoring orders from President Thein Sein to cease attacks in Kachin areas.

“We were just campaigning for peace for which we made repeated requests to the authorities but they did not allow us to conduct our peaceful rally on various pretexts. Now we are faced with attempts to send us to court,” Moe Thwe of New Generation Wave, a political youth network, said after he was released from police custody.

He and others facing trial issued a statement yesterday saying they would file a complaint to the National Human Rights Commission, a body set up a year ago which has since received criticism for its lack of independence.

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Police block landmark protest
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