Re-Imprisonment of Myanmar Political Prisoner Sends Chilling Message

Freedom House condemns the decision by Myanmar authorities to re-imprison human rights defender and recently-released political prisoner, Nay Myo Zin and calls for immediate release of him and all remaining political prisoners. In addition, the Government of Myanmar should immediately remove the stipulations placed on all political prisoners freed under Article 401 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.
 
On May 7, Nay Myo Zin was notified by authorities in Ma-U Bin that he will be required to serve six more years of a ten-year sentence he was given in 2011 under the Electronic Transactions Act for having allegedly circulated emails criticizing the government. He was released in the January 13, 2012 amnesty but, like other political prisoners, he was freed under Article 401 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. Article 401 gives the president authority to release prisoners at his or her discretion but stipulates that released prisoners can be returned to prison at any time to serve out the remainder of their sentence. Since his release last year, Nay Myo Zin has been working with farmers and villagers who have had their land confiscated. He was arrested in January 2013 and charged under the Peaceful Assembly and Procession Act and Section 500 of the criminal code for supporting a peaceful demonstration by a farmers’ union in Irrawaddy Division that represents about 20,000 farmers, many of whose land has been confiscated without compensation. Nay Myo Zin was serving a three-month sentence stemming from those charges when he was informed that his 2011 was being re-imposed.  
 
Nay Myo Zin is the first freed political prisoner to be returned to prison under Article 401, and his case sends a chilling message to all freed political prisoners about their constant risk of re-imprisonment. While recent reforms in Myanmar have been encouraging, severe limitations on freedoms of association, assembly, and expression remain, especially for those who were previously imprisoned for political activism. If the government of Myanmar is serious about moving the country toward just and democratic governance, it must act immediately to ensure the fundamental freedoms of all of its citizens. Conditions placed on freed political prisoners by Article 401 should be removed, offering them a true amnesty that cannot be revoked. In addition, the Peaceful Assembly and Procession Act, the Electronic Transaction Law, the Unlawful Associations Act, and other repressive legislation should be reviewed with an eye toward repeal or significant revision so that these laws no longer hinder Myanmar citizens’ realization of their fundamental rights.

Learn more:

Freedom in the World 2013: Myanmar

Freedom of the Press 2012: Myanmar

Freedom on the Net 2012: Myanmar

Blog: Freedom at Issue