The Burma Human Rights network is calling on the Burmese authorities to immediately release 23-year-old Ma Hla Phyu, a Muslim teacher who was arrested, reportedly denied access to a lawyer and sentenced to a year in prison with hard labour for attempting to travel from Kyaukphu, Rakhine State, to the country’s economic centre and former capital, Yangon.
Ma Hla Phyu was found guilty of using someone else’s ID in order to travel to Yangon, which she apparently did as a last resort due to heavily discriminatory policies restricting the travel of Muslims from Rakhine State. She was arrested on 26 May by a joint force of police and military at 10pm in Taungup Township. She was sentenced to a year in prison with hard labour on May 28th under sections 6(2) and 6(3) of the immigration act. She was then sent to Thantwe Prison. She was in possession of a National Verification Card, a lower status temporary I.D. Muslims are pressured to accept, especially in Rakhine State.
On 7th June, 2018 the Burmese Government and United Nations agencies signed a Memorandum of Understanding regarding the voluntary repatriation of 700,000 Rohingya refugees who were displaced following a military offensive against the civilian population last summer. While on its face this agreement could be is a positive step, the Burma Human Rights Network urges further scrutiny and vigilance about this agreement and its implementation over the coming years.
It should be noted that Burma and the UN previously coordinated on repatriation efforts of the Rohingya following mass exoduses from military crackdowns in 1978 and 1991-92. Witnesses to these repatriations still speak of gross human rights abuses that have continued and worsened over the years. Precedents have been set to question Burma’s seriousness regarding the repatriation of the Rohingya and the UN’s ability to oversee such events on Burma’s terms.
The Burma Human Rights Network is calling on authorities to dismiss charges against three Kachin protesters accused of defamation following mass protests between April 30th and May 6th. The protesters called on the evacuation of civilians from conflict areas after fighting displaced more than 6,000 people in Tanai, Injangyang, Hpankant and Mogaung townships. Following the protests, two were fined 30,000 Kyat for violating the peaceful assemby law section 19. Afterwards, Ko Lum Zawng, U Zaw Jat and Daw Nang Pu were charged in violation of penal code section 500 for defamation of the Military.
“The charges against these protesters are clearly intended to intimidate and silence any opposition to Myanmar’s ongoing civil war in its north. A free society should not fear protest and calls to protect its own civilians, and this case is a worrying sign of continued erosion of Burma’s limited liberties. What is perhaps most worrying is that the call of these protesters