New Delhi/Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – Eleven activists and students from Rangoon, on their way today to attend the funeral of the Pegu youths, were stopped at a police checkpoint about 15 kilometres south of Pegu Division’s capital.
The checkpoint was set up amid tight security in and around Pegu city as authorities sought to ward off potential unrest at today’s funeral of the two youths – Aung Thu Hein, 23, and Soe Paing Zaw, 18 – shot dead by army officers. Residents have expressed outrage over the killings.
Mizzima spoke with two of the activists detained at Inndakaw Township, which lies on National Highway 1 between Rangoon and Pegu.
Zeya Lin (Youth Who Want Burma to be Developed)
“On our way to the funeral, all 11 of us were taken to the Inndakaw Police Station. It lasted about an hour … They interrogated each of us one by one without sufficient reason. We were released after the funeral was over. They shouldn’t do that. Our objective was to attend the funeral, but because of the authorities, we were too late … Anyway, we were able to visit the homes of the victims.”
Phoe Phyu (lawyer, human rights activist)
How did they obstruct you?
“When we arrived in front of Inndakaw Police Station, we were told to get out of the car. They [police] checked our identification cards and seized the car keys and then they interrogated us one by one. By that means, they wasted about one hour. I want to say that we are Burmese citizens and we hold identification cards. So, why can’t we travel freely anywhere inside Burma? This is the first point.”
“The second point is that they interrogated each of us without reason as we hadn’t broken any regulations. Although the elections draw near [November 7], there are still oppression and interrogations without reason. So, it is controversial point whether people will be able to vote freely in the forthcoming elections.”
Please explain the case of the youths shot dead by Burmese Army officers from a legal point of view.
“The case is covered by the 1956 Burma Army Act and the 1960 Burma Army Act. If the case involves civilians, the case must be heard at a civil court. It should not be heard at a martial court … So this case must be heard in front of people in a civil court. However, the authorities failed to inform the people involved about legal processes. In fact, the legal processes should be transparent [There has been no official inquiry, the bodies were not released to the family, there has been no investigation nor any thorough autopsy conducted, and the bodies have been rushed to be cremated, in an apparent bid by authorities to destroy evidence]. So, people need to fight such unfairness in accordance with the laws.”
What would like to say about the shootings and the practice of law and order in Burma?
“Soldiers need to be armed on duty. At times of martial law, they might even need to use their weapons. But in this case, during a time that the country is in a state of ‘peace’, the captains shot unarmed youths as if they were at the front line [in a war]. It is quite obvious that the officers violated the law.”
How would you help the victims’ families?
“I’ll explain that this case must be transferred to the civil court in accord with the Army acts and that it must be heard in public. Moreover, students and people, who feel the same way as the family members of the victims, need to demand that this case be adjudicated fairly. We must take legal action.”
Who accompanied you to the funeral?
“They are members of the ‘Youth Who Want Burma to be Developed’ [group], students, labour rights activists who tried to form a labour union, and people who felt empathy with the families of the victims.”
Have you heard of any other instances of people being obstructed, as both of you were, when they tried to attend the funeral?
“I’ve seen that some people who went to the funeral were interrogated by the authorities. Two or three members of those groups were interrogated. I saw three of four cases of that kind. But for our group, each of us was interrogated one by one.
How do the victims’ families feel?
“We conveyed our heartfelt condolences to the families of the victims … some of them felt relief but some of their siblings … are still crying.”
See related articles here:
- Authorities impose tight security for Pegu funeral
- Funeral of two youths in Pegu
- Pegu enraged after youths shot dead by army officers