U Tin Nyein: Jailed because someone else flooded his land
U Tin Nyein, 46, farmer, son of U Khwe, residing in Kwunthi Chaung village, Kyun village tract, Bogalay Township, Pyapon District, Irrawaddy Division; convicted under sections 504/505(b) of the Penal Code, Bogalay Township Court, Felony No. 390/2006, lodged by Police Superintendent Tin Htun, Bogalay Township Police Station, Judge U Bhyein Htun Aung presiding, decided on 29 March 2006, sentenced to two years in prison under each section (to be served consecutively); following from Appeal No. 75/2005, Pyapon District Court, decided on 23 December 2005, against Felony No. 1496/2005 lodged in the Bogalay Sub- township Court under section 211 of the Penal Code on 6 December 2005; Irrawaddy Sub-divisional Court application of U Tin Nyein lodged on 14 February 2006; Supreme Court appeal decided on 25 January 2007
U Tin Nyein, a farmer in Kyun village tract of Bogalay Township complained that at about 1pm on 19 August 2005 U San Myint and five other workers who were assigned by the township authorities to land and water works in Kwunthi Chaung village demolished embankments that he had constructed in a stream on his land. As a result, over 100 acres of crops were destroyed.
After Tin Nyein lodged complaints at various levels, including with the Bogalay Township Peace and Development Council, Pyapon District Peace and Development Council, Irrigation Department, Agricultural Planning Department, and Water Resources Utilization Department, on December 6 U San Myint lodged a counter-complaint in the Bogalay Sub-township Court
that Tin Nyein had made false claims in order to injure reputations, under section 211 of the Penal Code (Felony No. 1496/2005).
In an attempt to stop Tin Nyein from further action, the authorities allegedly put Tin Nyein under illegal detention at the Bogalay Township Police Station on 6 February 2006. However, on February 14 he was able to lodge another appeal in the Irrawaddy Sub-divisional Court that the case against him was illegal because section 182, not 211 should be used in cases of this nature and that under section 195(b) of the Criminal Procedure Code the case should anyhow be disallowed as it did not comply with correct procedure. The court upheld the appeal but did not dismiss the case. Rather, the judge instructed the police to find a suitable provision of the Penal Code under which to prosecute Tin Nyein.
Therefore, on March 9 Police Superintendent Tin Htun of Bogalay Township Police Station lodged a new complaint against Tin Nyein for attempting to cause a breach of the peace and upsetting public tranquility, under sections 504 and 505(b) of the Penal Code.
In the hearings at the Bogalay Township Court, Tin Nyein (representing himself) pointed out that the authorities had not denied that they had broken the embankments, but just that the effect was that water had flooded his land. He also produced a signed document by seven other farmers supporting his claims and saying that their lands had also been affected (namely, Ko Kyaw Kyaw, son of U Maung, 9 acres; U Thi, son of U Htun Min, 20 acres; Daw San Myint, daughter of U Htun Khin, 9 acres; Myint
Lwin Oo, son of U Lone, 10 acres; Myint Oo, son of U Mya Maung, 20 acres; Kular, son of U Kyaw Sein, 11 acres; Khin Zaw Oo, son of U Win Htay, 12 acres).
Nonetheless, on March 29 the township court found Tin Nyein guilty of both charges and sentenced him to two years in jail for each offence, to be served consecutively. According to the judgment, he had had a grudge against San Myint since 2001 and had spuriously brought the criminal case against him and had said that he would do something that would amount to a breach of public tranquillity. The judgment contains nothing of Tin Nyein’s testimony nor reasoning by the judge; only testimonies of the police officer and San Myint followed by the sentence.
Ultimately, Tin Nyein won an appeal in the Supreme Court on 25 January 2007. The court ordered that he be freed on February 1; he was released on February 5.
School headmaster U Aye Min and Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA) officer U Win Nyunt were also sentenced to two years in prison in December 2005 for informing the authorities in the same township that local officials had been extorting money under the cover of an agricultural loan programme (Bogalay Township Court, Criminal Case No. 1334/ 2005; Asian Human Rights Commission–Urgent Appeal No. AHRC UA-071-2006 and Urgent Update No. UP-054-2006). In this case too the men were accused of giving “false information” under Penal Code section 211. The fact that they were supported in their allegations by affidavits from some 28 other farmers and that local officials spoke in their defence was apparently irrelevant to the judge. The two had acted as representatives for the farmers, because of their semi-official positions; however, these too did not protect them from more powerful officials angered at the complaint. Unfortunately, their application for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court was rejected on 20 November 2006 (UP-228-2006).
Another farmer, U Tin Kyi, was jailed for four months in August 2006 for supposedly insulting a local government officer after he allegedly lifted his sarong and exposed his anus at him in an argument over land, despite the entire case against him being based on hearsay, the complainant having admitted that he had not himself heard or witnessed any of the things that he was alleging, and nor did he have any evidence upon which to support his case (Kyaung Gone Township Court, Criminal Case No. 705/ 06; AHRC UA-292-2006).
Ko Sein Win was sentenced to one-and-a-half years in prison for having an illegal lottery ticket in his possession; however, the real reason that he was jailed was because he organised a petition by farmers against government orders to produce dry season paddy in Bogalay Township, Irrawaddy Division (AHRC UA-175-2004).
Maung Chan Kun: Tortured to death for eloping
Maung Chan Kun (a.k.a. Maung Myint Thein), 20, son of U Chit Htoo, resident of Dawnachan Ward, Pantanaw Township, Irrawaddy Division, married to Ma Chan Nyein Khaing, daughter of U Chit Tin, 2nd year economics student (distance), Ma-Ubin Township, Irrawaddy Division; detained in Pantanaw police lockup on 11 January 2007 by Police Deputy Superintendent Soe Moe and seven subordinates of the Pantanaw Township Police Station, Police Deputy Superintendent Htay Aung (duty officer in charge); post mortem inquest at Pantanaw Township Court on 5 February 2007 (General Case No. 3/2007), Judge Khin Nwe Myint (Special Powers) presiding
Maung Chan Kun and his wife Ma Chan Nyein Khaing eloped from Ma-Ubin to his parents’ house in Dawnachan ward of Pantanaw town on January 5. After they arrived, they registered with the local authorities that they were staying as visitors in the ward, which is required by law in Burma, although it is not actively enforced in most parts of the country.
However, around 12:30am on January 11, a group of eight police lead by Deputy Superintendent Soe Moe came to the house with a local government official and called Chan Kun for questioning purportedly in connection with the guest list.
The next morning a police officer came to the house and told Chan Nyein Khaing that her husband was in the Pantanaw Township Hospital. When she went to the hospital she found her husband lying on his back upon a wooden bed frame in the cleaning room. His clothes were dishevelled and one arm was chained. He was already dead. There were injuries all over his body, in particular, an approximately one- inch-long hole at the back of the head from which blood emerged when his relatives moved his body to take it for autopsy, as no orderlies were around. There was also bruising from his neck to the backs of his ears, and on his face, sides and forearms. There was swelling on his right side.
Radio journalists who contacted the Pantanaw police station from abroad were told that Chan Kun was arrested because he had escaped from an army prison labour camp run by Light Infantry Battalion 304 in Thaton. His wife denies this and says that no such allegation was made either at time of arrest. The police said that after he was brought to the station they had intended to send him to the Ma-Ubin Prison, but before that he had started to show symptoms of malaria so he was sent to the hospital. They denied that he was tortured or that he was chained while in hospital. Hospital personnel contacted said that they were not able to comment.
Many persons saw Chan Kun’s body at the hospital, and photographs and other details have been recorded in addition to the official autopsy. On January 14, Chan Nyein Khaing lodged complaints with the national and division council chairmen, home affairs minister and police chief. However, she was denied an attempt to lodge a complaint in court.
On February 5 a post-mortem inquest was held at the Pantanaw Township Court. In the findings of the court, Chan Kun had been brought to the lockup at 2am and transferred to the hospital at 8:30am after looking unwell, and died from malaria at 11:45am. The judge closed the inquiry.
Special Anti-drug Squad police in Kachin State, near the China border beat Maung Ne Zaw to within in inch of his life and he subsequently died in custody having received no medical attention; his mother fled to Thailand after constant harassment and threats due to her attempts to obtain justice (AHRC UA-222- 2006; see interview).
Municipal officers and fire fighters beat Ko Thet Naing Oo to death after an altercation over his urinating in a public market in Rangoon; after his mother campaigned for justice, the police arrested and charged a group of innocent bystanders with his death (AHRC UA-097-2006; UP-060-2006, UP-064-2006).
Ko Aung Hlaing Win was tortured to death by military intelligence personnel; his wife lodged detailed appeals in the courts on the irregularities in his case, including the non-return of her husband’s body (whom the state claimed died of a heart attack), but these were summarily dismissed at all levels, including by the Special Appellate Division of the Supreme Court (AHRC UA-110-2005).
Daw Khin Win: Farmer jailed for complaining about corrupt officials
Daw Khin Win, 51, daughter of U Pule, resident of Penweikone village, Nyaungpinthar village tract, Kawhmu Township, Rangoon Division; alleged corruption by Nyaungpinthar Village Tract Peace & Development Council officials, chairman U Win Shein; charged under Penal Code section 211, Felony No. 296/ 2005 in Kawhmu Township Court, Judge Daw Htay Htay Win (No. Ta/1767) presiding; Felony No. 275/2005 in Kunchankone Township Court, Judge Thein Swe (No. Ta/2125) presiding; one year’s imprisonment
In November 2004 Daw Khin Win complained to the South Yangon District Peace and Development Council about the corrupt activities of the Nyaungpinthar Village Tract Peace & Development Council officials, headed by U Win Shein. She alleged that they had colluded with cattle thieves and taken
money from them for each head of cattle stolen and smuggled, had been involved in illegal land transactions and authorised wrongful use of land, had inflated the acreage on record under the 2004-05 rainy season paddy crop in order to get additional state supplies of diesel and fertilizer to sell for their own profit, and had had persons dismissed from the village council re-elected to the Kawhmu Township Peace and Development Council.
The district council reportedly set up a special investigation team; however, it did not question either her or other villagers who supported her, only the officials. It also allegedly forced Daw Khin Win, U Aung Shwe and other villagers to sign blank documents. Finally, the Kawhmu Township Peace and Development Council on 8 September 2005 authorised the Nyaungpinthar Village Tract Peace & Development Council to prosecute Daw Khin Win for making false allegations against the authorities (Ref. No. 62/2-2/KaMa-3), under section 211 of the Penal Code, which U Win Shein did on 27 September 2005.
Daw Khin Win alleges that during the preliminary investigation of the case she was also threatened by the township judge Daw Htay Htay Win that she should have no contact about her case with anyone outside the country, or she would give her the maximum two-year sentence. She successfully applied to have the hearings transferred to another court on October 24 because of the influence of the prosecuting authorities over the local court. Notwithstanding, only seven of her 12 witnesses appeared at the court, allegedly due to warnings by local authorities that they would not get any agricultural loans, fertilizer or other assistance needed for their farms. Khin Win’s lawyers also were not allowed to examine witnesses during the proceedings, and witnesses were prevented from giving testimonies about matters on which Khin Win had complained.
The court concluded that there were no grounds for her complaints, despite the fact that one U Aung Shwe clearly testified to a transaction of 10 cattle being smuggled with the knowledge of the local authorities in exchange for 50,000 Kyat (USD 45), and two other witnesses, Ma Khin Nyo and Ma Win Htay, testified to having to pay money illegally to change land title deeds. Daw Khin Win was sentenced to one year in jail on 27 December 2006. She was transferred to central Insein Prison. She was also bankrupted by having to spend money on court cases and due to lost time to work on her farm.
Daw Khin Win received support for her complaints from human rights defender Ma Su Su Nwe, the villager who with the backing of the International Labour Organisation made the first successful complaint of forced labour in Burma and was herself subsequently imprisoned after the local authorities counter-sued her. The judge who allegedly threatened Khin Win is the same one who convicted Su Su Nwe. After Su Su Nwe and other members of the opposition political party, National League for Democracy, came to the court to support Khin Win on 13 November
2006 an article appeared in state-run newspapers accusing them of interfering in the case and stating plainly that Khin Win had made baseless allegations against government officials.
After strong publicity to her case, Daw Khin Win was freed on appeal to the Southern Rangoon District Court on 29 March 2007. However, the conviction was not overturned by the court; instead, the sentence was reduced from one year to three months, which she had already served.
After getting out from prison, Khin Win said that she would continue to press her complaints against the local council officials and maintained that she had done nothing wrong.
Lawyer U Aye Myint was jailed for helping farmers to make a complaint about land usage by the government, and was released only after intense pressure from the International Labour Organisation, but not before having his licence to practice law revoked (AHRC UA-119-2006; UP-139-2006).
U Thein Zan, Ko Zaw Htay & U Aung Than Htun were prosecuted for helping villagers to complain about the death of a man on a government forced labour project (AHRC UA-50-2006; UP-017- 2006).
U Thein Zan: Elderly satirist held, then strangely 4
U Thein Zan, 65, retired seaman, ordinarily residing in Dhammayone Road, Ward 3, Thingankyun Township, Rangoon; charged under section 505(b) Penal Code, by Police Deputy Superintendent Soe Win Thingankyun Township Court, Criminal Case No. 265/2007
U Thein Zan, who earns money by repairing radios and cassette players, was angered by government propaganda claiming that economic and social conditions in Burma are improving and that opponents to the state are a small minority of troublemakers and terrorists.
During the morning of 23 February 2007, Thein Zan cut out and stuck some headlines from news and opinion pieces along the inside of his fence in Thingankyun, Rangoon and added his own title that parodied a long-running series of propaganda articles, as well as other satirical comments.
His actions followed reporting on a small protest against rising prices and economic hardship in Rangoon the day before. The protest was reported as a “riot” in the state media “aimed at instigating external and internal anti-government groups and foreign media to fabricate news” in order that the participants might obtain “medals or cash rewards from abroad”. The reports warned that the protest was “totally against the law”. Some nine persons were detained for questioning over the protest, and subsequently released, but in March further arrests and releases were also reported. This and other protests were a prelude to what happened in August and September 2007, after the massive fuel price rises of August 15.
Back at Thein Zan’s house, after a short time around 100 persons had gathered to see what he had done, and around 11am local council officials and police arrived and removed the papers from the fence and took Thein Zan back to the council office.
At the office the police interrogated Thein Zan, who told them that he had nothing to do with politics but rather that he had put up the papers after his daughter-in-law had come back from the market that morning and told him about the prices of eggs. He said that the writers of the articles whom he parodied should write useful articles about the real experiences of the people, who are facing electricity shortages and sky-rocketing prices of basic commodities. He also reportedly told them that if what he had done was an offence then they should charge him.
After the interrogation, Thein Zan was allowed to go home, but around 7pm on March 5 a group of Thingankyun Township Police Station officers together with members of the Township Peace and Development Council came and arrested him at his house. Shortly thereafter he was transferred to central Insein Prison.
When the Thingankyun Township Court sat for the first hearing on March 8 it was full, as many persons, including Ma Su Su Nwe and other human rights defenders and activists, came to listen. A person who looked like a police officer (wearing police uniform trousers and a vest over his shirt) came inside the court and began taking photographs. Thein Zan’s lawyer complained to the court about his presence.
The first person to testify was the township police chief, who in reply to a question from the defence attorney that “Are you aware of the electricity outages in Rangoon?” replied that he was not. As the city is constantly plagued by power cuts, including in government buildings and relatively-wealthy suburbs, the reply was ridiculous and patently false.
The prosecution case continued, however, before it could be concluded at about 1pm on March 28 two men came to Thein Zan’s house and said that they were businessmen who wanted to pay for his bail. The two men, who the family had never seen before and who identified themselves only as U Htwe Myint and U Kyi Maung, went with
his wife and two sons to the township offices, where they submitted guarantees on Thein Zan’s behalf for one million Kyat (USD 800). The bail application was accepted, even though the two men did not present any documentary evidence of assets to support the application, such as business certificates.
At about 5pm on the same day Thein Zan was called by the jailors at the central Insein Prison, and at 7pm he was released. He also said that he also did not know who had paid the bail or why.
On April 2, when the hearings resumed in court, the criminal charge was promptly dismissed. After his release, Thein Zan thanked everyone who had supported him.
The reasons for the sudden turnaround in the position of the court and the appearance of the two “businessmen” remain unclear; however, it is certain that some part of the government was involved in stopping the case from proceeding. Some informed observers have suggested that there was a conflict between the local council and police over the matter.
U Ohn Myint and Ko Khin Zaw in 2004 went to jail for refusing to pay a fine over legal action against them for taking forced labour complaints to the courts (UA-064-2004). The two were similarly released under unusual circumstances, after two unidentified men, believed to be intelligence officers, came and paid the fines on their behalf and instructed prison officials to let them go.
Ko Naing Oo: Died in custody from “a cold”
Ko Naing Oo (a.k.a. Ko Ye Naing Oo), 36, labourer, married with two children, son of U Hla Myint, residing in Ward 2, North Okkalapa Township, Rangoon; allegedly killed by U Nyi Nyi Lwin, Chairperson, and U Sein Win, General Secretary, Ward 2 Peace & Development Council, North Okkalapa, and U Ohn Hlaing, Executive, Ward 2 Union Solidarity & Development Association, North Okkalapa on 18-19 March 2007 in Ward 2 Peace & Development Council office; Death Certificate No. E-8471-BR-7, North Okkalapa Township Hospital, issued 21 March 2007
On the afternoon of 18 March 2007 Ko Naing Oo left his house in Ward 2 of North Okkalapa, a suburb of Rangoon when members of the USDA government-organised mass movement body stopped him on the road. The group, led by U Ohn Hlaing, took him to the local council office because his mother in law, a USDA member, had reportedly complained that he had argued with her daughter and had wanted the officials to sort it out.
At the office the chairman and secretary of the local council, U Nyi Nyi Lwin and U Sein Win, reportedly interrogated him. According to witnesses, at around 8pm that night he could be heard crying out repeatedly as he was brutally assaulted inside the council premises.
At around 7am the next morning, March 19, word got out that Naing Oo was dead inside the office. The family was not informed, but hearing the news, his younger brother Ko Min San came and saw Naing Oo lying dead with cuts on the left side of his head, at the base of the skull and above the temple; bruises on his left leg and blood coming from his mouth, among other injuries. It was also obvious that the body had been moved after he died. According to Min San, in a telephone interview on the Voice of America Burmese service,
When I asked how my brother had died, they said that he had caught a cold. That’s impossible. I could see the injuries to his head. Blood and cotton coming out of his mouth—that’s the type of cold he died from.
The body was sent to hospital for a post mortem. The doctor handling the case, Dr. Win Kyi, promised to give a true post mortem report; however, the family did not later receive any information about it.
Meanwhile, the family obtained the necessary documents from the hospital and police to collect Naing Oo’s body for cremation and went to take it at 2:30pm on March 21. It was then that they found out that the three accused in the case had already brought a car at 10am that morning and already taken the body to the Yewei crematorium.
The family lodged a complaint over the death and the matter went into the local court. But the family was not informed when a hearing into the case was held on April 11, or that another would be on April 26. This is despite the fact that Naing Oo’s younger brother should have been called as a witness.
Meanwhile, local police reportedly warned Naing Oo’s father that if he tried to sue over his son’s death then he would lose his job as an import-export officer on the Rangoon docks.
On March 29 a local news journal also reported on the case and apparently on instructions of the authorities said that the autopsy had found that Naing Oo had died from natural causes while “sleeping soundly” at the council office where he had been brought for being drunk and disorderly.
Five members of a ward council in Yegyi Township, Irrawaddy Division, including the chairman, allegedly beat 34-year-old Ko Than Htike to death on 31 December 2005 because he had refused to follow their instructions to clear vegetation from the front of his house and pay dues to support a paramilitary unit. The evening before Than Htike had reportedly had a fight with two of the council after drinking at a local shop, and according to witnesses the group came to find him and teach him a lesson early the next morning (AHRC UA-044-2006).
Ko Than Htun & Ko Tin Htay: Jailed for possessing wedding video
Ko Than Htun, 40, resident of Ward 5, Nyaungdone, Irrawaddy Division, arrested by Police Superintendent Aung Naing and subordinates, Nyaungdone Township Police, along with one Special Branch officer, convicted under section 505(b) of the Penal Code to two years’ imprisonment with hard labour; and sections 32(b) & 36 to two-and-a-half years’ imprisonment under the 1996 Television & Video Law, served consecutively; Ko Tin Htay, 41, resident of Ward 5, Nyaungdone, arrested by Police Deputy Superintendent Zaw Moe Naing, Nyaungdone Township Police, convicted under section 505(b) of the Penal Code to two years’ imprisonment with hard labour; both convicted in Nyaungdone Township Court, Criminal Case No. 319/2007, lodged by Police Superintendent Kyaw Mya Than, Station Officer, Nyaungdone Township Police; Judge Daw Saw Nwet Nwet Win presiding
On the night of March 20, a team of police and local officials came to Ko Than Htun’s house in Nyaungdone, searched the premises and at the back found a parcel containing CD videos and other items. When they looked at the videos they found that they contained footage of the extravagant wedding of the daughter of Senior General Than Shwe, the country’s head of state. The video had been edited to contrast the extraordinarily opulent lifestyle of the military elite with the ordinary people, including still images of children begging and other signs of widespread poverty. Different versions of the wedding video have reportedly been widely distributed throughout Burma.
(Watch footage of the wedding on YouTube: type “Thandar Shwe” into the search and then select any of dozens of uploads; or watch documentary version here: http://www.khitpyaing.org/ ads/seinCnya_eng.php.)
In the daytime the police came back and confiscated all the CDs, saying that they had not complied with censorship regulations; then they took Than Htun to the police station where they charged him with possessing illegal videos. He obtained bail and was allowed to return home. But that night the police came and searched again and took Than Htun into custody for a while.
On the morning of March 22 the police came a third time, took Than Htun back to the police station and this time refused to release him.
Around midday on the same day (March 22) a police deputy superintendent entered the house of Ko Tin Htay, and searched for videos without a warrant, saying that the police had information from the case of Than Htun. (Tin Htay was formerly the chairman of the Democratic Party for a New Society, which supported the National League for Democracy in the 1990 general election.)
On the same day police entered and searched the house of Ko Tin Htay without a warrant and witnesses as required by law (Criminal Procedure Code section 103). Although they could reportedly find nothing they called him to the police station, whereupon they accused him of the same offence as Ko Than Htun. On March 23 the Nyaungdone Township Peace and Development Council reportedly instructed that they also be charged with seeking to incite public fear, under the Penal Code.
Initially, both of the two men were charged only under the video law. But on March 23 the local council met and decided that they should also be charged with seeking to incite unrest under the penal code. At that time the head of the local police station also was given responsibility to take the case to court.
The case went to court on March 29. In court, the illegally obtained statement was used against Tin Htay. A photograph of General Aung San, the father of democracy leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the leader of Burma’s independence struggle, was also produced to show that he is politically active. However, Aung San is an historical figure who is considered a national martyr; his name, story and images can be found everywhere, from children’s schoolbooks to the market named after him in central Rangoon. It is also still relatively common for his portrait to be hung in ordinary persons’ houses. So the use of the picture as evidence in the court was ridiculous.
On April 6, at the second hearing in the court the accused men’s lawyers sought bail but were refused, as inciting fear among the public is a non-bailable offence. On April 9 and 10 the hearings continued.
On April 25 Than Htun was sentenced to four and a half years’ imprisonment; Tin Htay was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment, both with hard labour. Their applications to have appeals heard by the Ma-ubin District Court were rejected on June 1.
Maung Lin Lin Naing, 18, son of U Hla Maung Aye and Daw Aye Win, small trader, resident of Oatphoe village, Waingkyi tract, Phadoe, Kyauktaga Township, Pegu Division; killed in custody by unidentified police officers stationed at Phadoe, Kyauktaga on 4-5 January 2007
Maung Lin Lin Naing had gone to trade in beans at Panut village in Daik-U Township, Pegu Division of lower Burma and in the daytime on 8 February 2007 was on his way back to his village for a wedding ceremony when he stopped at the Shwe Min Store in Phadoe town to buy some provisions. The storeowner, Ko Aung Toe Hlaing, reportedly accused Lin Lin Naing of theft and had him arrested.
According to the police record, at 4pm the next day, February 9, Lin Lin Naing was found hanged in the Phadoe police lock up; the police also showed concerned persons a photograph of the young man hanging from some discarded clothing. At 7pm on February 10, without having informed the family, the police hired four persons to dispose of the body.
The family of Lin Lin Naing together with their local council official went to ask the police how the young man had died and where they could find the remains, but they did not get any straight answers. On February 17 they were forced to hold the religious ceremony for his death without them.
According to a Radio Free Asia (Burmese Service) broadcast, they repeatedly attempted to call the police station to verify the story but no one answered the telephone.
A human rights defender helping the family has said that they had been warned by the police and Phadoe local officials that they would be “shut up” if they tried to complain about the death. Nonetheless, on March 21 the family lodged a complaint with the home affairs minister, in accordance with advertisements in state newspapers inviting people to make complaints about the wrongdoing of government officers. No action is known to have been taken since.
On the night of 4 January 2007 30-year-old Htwee Maung, a trishaw driver, had gone to watch a traditional variety show at the Pyilonechanthar Buddhist Monastery in Myepone town of Taunggut Township, Arakan State, on the western coastline of Burma. According to one witness, he had been sitting quietly but nearby there was a rowdy crowd. When the police moved in, people began running away and the police failed to apprehend anyone in the group that was supposedly making trouble. Thereafter two officers, Police Corporals Kyaw Myint and Soe Naing, arrested Htwee Maung in their stead. The police took Htwee Maung to the Myepone lock up. At 6am the next morning the police chief, Station Officer Myo Thant, sent him to the local hospital, but he was dead on arrival. According to a person who saw his body, there were serious injuries to his head and over his right eye, and the doctor who examined the body said that it was an obvious case of “excessive force” by the police. A person in the locality said that the victim’s family had been threatened not to complain (AHRC UA-224-2007).
Maung Ko Kyi: Taken from fish farm, never returns
Maung Ko Kyi (a.k.a. Maung Ko Ko Kyi), 41, fish breeder, son of U Thein Aung and Daw Khin Shwe, resident of Wetu village, Myabago tract, Hypu Township, Pegu Division, forcibly disappeared by Captain Kyaw Zayar Win and personnel of Infantry Battalion 590 on 10 March 2006 at Inkabar village, Kyaukkyi Township, Pegu Division
Maung Ko Kyi left from his village in lower Burma to go and work breeding fish further to the east, in Kyaukkyi, which is close to a heavily militarised part of the country still affected by civil unrest.
On 12 February 2006 Captain Kyaw Zayar Win and troops of Infantry Battalion 590 allegedly took Ko Kyi with them to Ohnshithkin village and demanded 300,000 Kyat (USD 250). They said that if his fish hadn’t matured then he could pay the money after they had done so (and he had been able to sell them). After that they released him. But on March 10, before he paid the money they again came and took him away.
When Ko Kyi’s family learned about this, they went looking for him first at the battalion headquarters, then at Infantry Battalion 60 headquarters, and then at the Strategic Command headquarters in Kyaukkyi, where they found him. They were told that they would have to pay the money immediately if they wanted him released. They started to collect the money, but before they paid it they heard that Ko Kyi was already sent to Armed Battalion 13 to serve as a porter for the army in the hilly regions.
The family has not seen or heard from Ko Kyi since. They have lodged complaints with all senior government officials and army officers asking to know what had happened to him and for legal action against the perpetrators if he is found to have been killed, or for his immediate return to his family if still alive. But these have not so far yielded any result. The case has been referred to the International Labour Organisation, which has a mandate to work with the authorities to eliminate forced labour in the country.
U Than Lwin & 9 others: Witnesses to assault jailed instead of perpetrator
U Than Lwin, 70, elected member of parliament (National League for Democracy), resident of Mattaya Township, Mandalay Division, assaulted by unidentified man who fled into USDA office, Mattaya Township; complaint lodged with Mattaya Township Police, First Information Report (FIR) No. PaRa/401, Penal Code sn. 325 (grievous hurt); Investigating Officer (IO) Zaw Min Min Htwe (Deputy Security Officer); counter-complaint against U Nyo Kyi, organising committee member, NLD, Mattaya Township, U Nyo Lay, Ko Kyaw Swa, Ko Thaung Naing, Ko Zaw Min Lwin, son of U Than Lwin, Ma Khin Ma Kyi, older daughter of U Than Lwin, Ma Khin Ma Lay, younger daughter of U Than Lwin, Ko Nyan Sein, son-in-law of U Than Lwin and Ko Nyi Nyi, son of Mattaya Township NLD chairman, U Khin Maung Than by U Kyaw Min, Secretary, Mattaya Township USDA on 26 June 2007 under Penal Code section 506 (against Ko Nyo Kyi) and section 506 read with section 114 (against other persons) heard in Mattaya Township Court from 24 July 2007 to 5 October 2007
Around 9am on 15 June 2007 U Than Lwin and some colleagues together with some 30 persons went to pray for the release of political prisoners in Burma at the Myohtaung Shwekou Pagoda, Sutaungpyi Pagoda and Hnithseleihsu Pagoda in Mattaya town, as part of a nationwide campaign. They informed the pagoda trustees in advance; however, at each place they found local council officials and members of the government-organised USDA and “Swan-arshin”—thugs organised through the USDA and local councils—standing around and waiting. Thus, the group instead went to the prayer hall of the East Shwetheindaw Monastery. At around 10am its members were walking together to the monastery when they were stopped by Ko Tin Ko, chairperson of the council for the number 2 zone, northeastern quarter of the Mattaya main market, who warned them that they would face trouble if they continued with their plan. Than Lwin and another leader of the group explained that as they were going to pray peacefully they did not see why there would be any trouble.
The group proceeded to the monastery and at 10:45am finished their prayer meeting. Then they saw that the persons who had been waiting at the pagodas had come and blocked the gates of the monastery. As the group filed out, the crowd of around 400 persons started to walk behind and alongside. As they walked along the road, one man emerged from the crowd and hit Than Lwin in the face with a knuckle-duster, before running off. Some members of the prayer group immediately ran after him and chased him for about a mile, until Zaw Min Lwin—Than Lwin’s son—and two local residents saw him go into the Mattaya Township USDA office.
At 2pm a report was recorded at the Mattaya Township Police Station, and Station Chief U Khin Maung Thein ordered IO Zaw Min Min Htwe to go with two constables to the USDA office to investigate. There the eyewitnesses verified that they had seen the alleged assailant run into the office; however, the USDA staff refused to allow the police inside, despite the fact that they are legally entitled to enter a premises in pursuit of an alleged criminal.
Than Lwin had a broken nose and left cheek, and serious facial injuries, and was sent to the Mandalay General Hospital for an operation on June 16. On June 19 the investigating officer in the case came to see him in hospital; however, there has been no further investigation of the case. Meanwhile, Than Lwin had to remain hospitalised, due to dizziness and poor eyesight.
On June 26 a USDA township committee member, U Kyaw Min, lodged a criminal complaint in the Mattaya Township Court against U Nyo Kyi and eight others. He alleged that Nyo Kyi had threatened to kill the assailant and burn down the USDA office, and had been abetted by the other eight.
Under cross examination during the trial, which opened on July 24, the secretary admitted that he himself had not been a witness to any of the alleged actions and threats but said that he had been told by others, and that he had just opened the case on instructions from his superiors. None of the other so-called witnesses to these actions had gone to the police with any complaint or had reported any such incidents, the court heard.
Furthermore, among the seven witnesses for the prosecution, two testified against U Nyo Kyi but said that the other eight accused hadn’t been involved in any way other than by being present at the time.
Despite the fact that the entire prosecution case was based on hearsay, the judge found all of the accused guilty and on October 5 sentenced Nyo Kyi to 7 years in jail and the others to 5 years. All nine were sent to Mandalay Prison afterwards, but later transferred to different prisons around the country. Nyan Sein, Zaw Min Lwin and Nyo Kyi have reportedly been kept in Mandalay, while Khin Ma Lay, Nyi Nyi and Thaung Naing have been sent to Myinchan Prison in Magwe, Nyo Lay and Kyaw Swa to Kalay Prison in Sagaing and Khin Ma Kyi to Monywa Prison, also in Sagaing. Family members who travelled across the country to try to visit their relatives at the new prisons were denied access. However, at time of writing appeals against the sentences were upheld and at least some of those sentenced released.
Meanwhile, U Than Lwin was himself taken from his house by police and officials led by Police Superintendent Khin Maung Thein and the chairman of the Mattaya Township Peace and Development Council U Khin Maung Soe at around midnight on 1 October 2007, without charge, in connection with the protests of September. When asked if he was under arrest the officials reportedly told the family that he was only being taken for questioning; however, he was not brought home later and his whereabouts were still unknown at the end of the month.
After an appeal was issued for police assault victim Ko Aung Myint Oo in January 2006, an investigation team was sent to inquire about the case at his house in Meikhtila Township, Mandalay Division. However, instead of inquiring about whether or not an assault occurred, they intimidated the victim and his family and insisted that he had resisted arrest. A group of officers also illegally searched the house and the victim’s wife and mother. They removed Aung Myint Oo from hospital to prison while he was still undergoing treatment for serious external injuries and two broken ribs. The family was later coerced into stopping any legal action against the officers (AHRC UA-058-2006; UP-029-2006).
Ma Aye Aye Aung and her husband Ko Tint Zaw complained to the police that a gang led by the Meikhtila Township council head twice assaulted them in public during September 2005 (Meikhtila Township Court, Criminal Case No. 6865/2005), but could not obtain a conviction against the chief accused and were themselves subject to punitive action, including having their vending licence revoked (AHRC UA-080-2006). The chairman’s wife, who was the chairwoman of the local Women’s Affairs Committee, also participated in the assaults and was given only a small fine.Kyaw Min Htun, 26, was sentenced to two years’ hard labour for interfering with a police officer, Police Corporal Aung Naing Soe, whom he saw assaulting Ma San San Htay, a betel nut vendor, and dragging her along the ground by her hair in Kyinmyindaing Township, Rangoon on 18 April 2004 (AHRC UA- 111-2004).
Ko Thurein Aung & 5 others: Seditious talk about workers’ rights
Sentenced to 28 years under Penal Code section 124A; Burma Immigration (Emergency Provisions) Act, 1947, section 13(1) and Unlawful Association Act, 1908, section 17(1): Ko Thurein Aung, 32, son of U Hla Aung and Daw Khin Mya, of Hlaingthayar Township, Rangoon, Ko Way Lin, 24, son of U Kyaw Hla, of Mangaleit village, Kunchankone Township, Rangoon Division, Ko Kyaw Min (a.k.a. Ko Wanna) and Ko Myo Min; sentenced to 20 years under Penal Code section 124A: Ko Nyi Nyi Zaw, 25, son of U Lole and Daw Aye Cho, of Thukhayeithar, Hlaing Township, Rangoon, and Ko Kyaw Kyaw, son of U Ohn Shwe and Daw Tin Aye, 29, trainee lawyer, of Ward 20, South Dagon Township, Rangoon; arrested on 1 & 7 May 2007, detained and interrogated by Police Deputy Superintendent Zaw Lin Naing and other personnel of Kyaikkasan camp; charged by Police Deputy Superintendent Myo Thant; hearings at the Rangoon Division Western District Court, Felony Nos. 82-84/2007, conducted within Insein Prison, Rangoon from 16 July 2007, Judge Aye Lwin (Second District Judge ) presiding, lawyers for defence withdrew in protest at handling of case on 4 August 2007 and judgment on 7 September 2007
On 1 May 2007 a group of workers’ rights advocates had organised for some discussions on labour rights to be held at the American Center in Rangoon. However, the government authorities systematically acted to thwart their plan and arrest the organisers.
Ko Thurein Aung, one of the organisers, was bringing a group of workers by vehicle to the centre when stopped by six officials, two in uniform and four in plain clothes led by Police Superintendent Shwe Hsi Maung, around 8:30am and taken directly to Kyaikkasan interrogation centre; the vehicle and workers were freed to go after publications on workers’ rights were removed.
As the other organisers arrived at the centre they saw a large group of police outside and further down the road groups of officials, police and unidentified persons on the street corner and inside some shops. Still they went ahead with the programme, on domestic and international standards of workers’ rights, and around 50 persons attended. After finishing in the afternoon, they left in small groups of three or four, and finally only three organisers were left. They saw that the officials and others were still waiting outside, and when they left they also were stopped by a group of the men and taken to the same interrogation centre, together with a further person from the gathering.
In total 33 persons were arrested on the same day, including Ko Way Lin, Ko Nyi Nyi Zaw and Ko Kyaw Kyaw. At least one person present said that they were arrested not by the police but by a group of around 30 unidentified men, who sent them to the interrogation centre on a commandered public bus.
On May 7, Ko Kyaw Min and Ko Myo Min, who had not been present at the programme on May 1, were arrested at the border checkpoint in Myawaddy and also charged in connection with the activities of the group.
On July 5 the state-run media reported that Thurein Aung and others had received money from abroad to hold meetings with workers in order to discuss “about the difficulties they were facing in an exaggerated manner to create outrage [among the] workers and then to incite protests”.
While the men were kept in detention at the central prison, they were reportedly held in separate buildings, denied visits, and also subjected to cruel and inhuman treatment. For instance, officials would allegedly suddenly appear in the middle of the night, or during mealtimes, and take them for further interrogations; and they were not given medical treatment for ailments.
The case opened against the six in the Rangoon Division Western District Court on July 16, at the central prison premises. Relatives were not admitted to the first hearing but were able to attend on July 20, which were at an outside court. However, after that the hearings were transferred back to the prison premises. Two lawyers for the accused on August 2 sought for the case to be transferred back to open court, in accordance with section 2(e) of the Judiciary Law 2000, that “dispensing justice [should be] in open court unless otherwise prohibited by law”. However, due to constant harassment, they withdrew from the case in protest on August 4.
Without lawyers and behind closed doors, on 7 September 2007, as protests grew outside, the six were all found guilty of sedition and illegal organising on the basis of alleged contacts with illegal organisations outside the country, and sentenced to 20 to 28 years in jail. According to the judgment, workers who had gone
with the accused had been misled into thinking that they were going to go and make religious donations. The reasoning of Judge Aye Lwin in finding them guilty was that,
Thurein Aung, Way Lin, Nyi Nyi Zaw, Kyaw Kyaw, Kyaw Min and Myo Min are not factory workers. They are not persons with a duty to explain about workers’ rights. I am opined that the main point of their holding a seminar ostensibly to discuss workers’ rights was to bring the national government into disrespect.
A group of Shan nationality leaders were earlier in 2007 also given life sentences for high treason and sedition, without regard to facts, evidence or law (AHRC UA-017-2007; UP-008-2007; UP- 016-2007).