The Myanmar government should drop charges against peaceful protesters and rescind a ban on protests planned for May 12 over attacks on civilians in Kachin State, Human Rights Watch said in a statement on 12 May.
In the past week, at least nine activists across Myanmar have been arbitrarily detained, charged, or sentenced for their roles in organizing and participating in peaceful protests calling for an end to hostilities and the protection of civilians in Myanmar’s Kachin State.
In response to a letter sent from protest organizers notifying civilian authorities in Yangon of a protest planned for May 12, the authorities banned the protest, saying it violated a previously issued order that banned protests across 11 of Yangon’s 14 townships.
“The Burmese government should immediately drop charges against these activists and allow peaceful protests to take place,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “It is extremely disappointing that after the election of a civilian government to replace a military dictatorship, the authorities are still prosecuting peaceful protesters and banning marches. Invoking a rarely enforced and overbroad protest ban sends a message that the government has little appetite for critical speech.”
The government should amend the Peaceful Assembly and Procession Law to bring it in line with international standards, Human Rights Watch said.
The NGO said Yangon Region Security and Border Affairs Minister Col. Aung Soe Moe should immediately withdraw the directive to ban protests in Yangon’s main townships, which contravenes both Myanmar and international law. All parties to the conflict in Kachin State should end alleged abuses against civilians, allow rapid and unimpeded humanitarian assistance to the thousands of civilians in need, and allow civilians to freely leave conflict areas.