Burmese Authorities Use Peaceful Assembly Law to Target Activists

The arrests this week of Naw Ohn Hla and Rohingya activist Than Shwe are a continuation of a disturbing trend of the government using the peaceful assembly law to stymie the work of human rights defenders.  Freedom House condemns the arrests and calls for the activists’ immediate release.

Authorities arrested Naw Ohn Hla and nine other demonstrators in Monywa on August 13 after they staged a peaceful protest against the Letpadaung Copper Mine project. Demonstrators demanded that the government suspend the mining project, as it has negatively affected the health and livelihood of local residents, and called on authorities to investigate police officers’ involvement in the November 2012 crackdown against protesters at the mining site.  Rohingya activist Than Shwe was arrested on August 13 after sharing pictures on Facebook of violent clashes between police and Muslim protesters at an Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp in the western state of Arakan. He has yet to be charged and remains in police custody.

Burma has made marked improvements in civil liberties since reforms were first implemented, yet repressive measures remain and appear to be increasing after a period of relative openness.  Since January, hundreds of activists have been arrested under the peaceful assembly law for participating in protests, and authorities have targeted activists, farmers and those organizing around issues including land ownership and land rights.  Earlier this month, three activists were arrested and charged after they organized a demonstration commemorating the 25th anniversary of the ‘8888’ protests.

Freedom House calls on the Burmese government to respect fundamental freedoms, particularly the rights to free association, assembly and expression. The government must also stop deliberately targeting human rights activists and release all remaining political prisoners, including those arrested under the Peaceful Procession and Peaceful Assembly Law.

Learn more:

Freedom in the World 2013: Burma

Freedom of the Press 2013: Burma

Freedom on the Net 2012: Burma

Blog: Freedom at Issue