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Rights group demands release of Myanmar environmental activist

Man Zar Myay Mon has been sentenced to total 21 years imprisonment for leading anti-coup protests
 Myanmar environmental and land rights defender, Man Zar Myay Mon, has been arrested, tortured and jailed for leading peaceful anti-coup protests.

Myanmar environmental and land rights defender, Man Zar Myay Mon, has been arrested, tortured and jailed for leading peaceful anti-coup protests. (Photo: The Irrawaddy via FIDH) 

Published: November 03, 2023 09:11 AM GMT
Updated: November 03, 2023 09:32 AM GMT

A human rights body has called on Myanmar military junta to immediately release environmental and land rights defender, Man Zar Myay Mon, who has been handed lengthy prison terms for leading peaceful anti-coup protests.

The arrest and jailing of Myay have caused deep concerns, the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organization Against Torture (OMCT) said in a statement on Nov. 2.

“The Observatory condemns the convictions and prison sentences of Myay, which seem to be only aimed at punishing him for his legitimate human rights activities, and urges the military junta to overturn his conviction, immediately release him, and put an end to all acts of harassment - including at the judicial level - against him and all other human rights defenders in the country,” the statement said.

Myay is a member of the Myanmar Alliance for Transparency and Accountability (MATA) and of the Subnational Coordination Unit (SCU) of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) in Sagaing region of north-western Myanmar.

The MATA is a network of over 400 civil society organizations and individuals who work on natural resource governance advocacy across all states of Myanmar

The EITI implements global standards to promote open and accountable management of oil, gas, and mineral resources.

Myay was also a leading figure in peaceful anti-coup protests in Chaung-U Township, Sagaing region, following the military coup on Feb. 1, 2021.

He was arrested on June 8 of that year by military soldiers after he went into hiding for nearly two months after an arrest warrant was issued against him. He remained imprisoned at Monywa Prison ever since.

The Monywa Prison Court sentenced Myay to 11 years in prison on Oct. 18. He was reportedly convicted under the Counter-Terrorism Law, including “possession or distribution of explosives.” 

This sentence followed a previous 10-year prison term imposed on him for “incitement” under the Penal Code in 2021, bringing his total sentence to 21 years in prison.

At the time of publication of this Urgent Appeal, Myay remained imprisoned in Monywa Prison, Sagaing region, where he has been arbitrarily detained since his arrest in June 2021.

Myay worked for many years to promote accountability of the extractive industries for the benefit of local communities, the Observatory noted. 

He led a regional mining investigation and helped inform the development of mining legislation in Sagaing region. Throughout this process, he helped uncover many instances of corruption among government officials. He was also active as one of the community leaders in the Letpadaung mine protests in Sagaing region.

Since his arrest, the United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders and the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Myanmar expressed deep concern about him.

The Observatory expressed its utmost concern regarding the torture to which Myay has been subjected during his detention and pointed out the high risk of further acts of ill-treatment and torture he may face while in military custody. 

“The Observatory urges the military junta to guarantee his physical integrity and psychological well-being in all circumstances,” it added.

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