Women and youth leaders in Matupi Township charged over demonstration
26 June 2014: Local women reported to the Chin Human Rights Organization (CHRO) that women and youth leaders in Matupi Township face charges for demonstrating without permission. The demonstrations they held last week in Matupi and Rezua in protest at sexual violence against ethnic women passed off peacefully.
The protest in Matupi was led by the Matupi Women’s Organization (MWO) and Matupi Youth Association (MYA) on 24th June. The next day, two women leaders and two youth leaders were summoned to the police station in Matupi town around 2pm, and charged with demonstrating without permission.
One of the women charged, Khin Thluai Par from MWO, reported to CHRO, “The district police officer Aung Min Soe told us that we have been charged under Article 18 of ‘The Right to Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Act’ for staging a demonstration without permission. They interrogated us and told us that they will submit all the interrogations to the court and the Court will summon us next week to make a final decision on our case. He told us not to travel anywhere this week so as to be available for the court summons.”
Tei Mang, the secretary of Matupi Youth Association told CHRO, “The Rocung Ward Administrator Maung Han, Thang Dik and I were summoned to the police station after they summoned the women leaders. When we arrived at the police station, the police officer Phyo Aung asked about the detailed program of the demonstration, such as who gave a speech, when did you start and so on. After that we were told not to travel to any place within this week.”
Another woman from MWO, who also participated in the demonstration reported, “A permission request letter was submitted to Matupi police station five days in advance, but at first they did not allow our proposed place for the demonstration. The second time we tried, they allowed our proposed place but they did not allow marching on the street. On the day of demonstration, the police officer Phyo Aung arrived at San Bawng main road where the people were gathered at around 9 am and told the three leaders about the rules which needed to be followed. He said if they break the rules, they will be arrested and put in prison.”
Khin Thluai Par said, “When we met with the District Police Officer, he told us we could be punished either by being put in prison or a monetary fine if they charge us under Article 18 of ‘The Right to Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Act’ for demonstrating without permission. We have decided we will go to prison instead of paying the fine if they continue the case against us. There was a similar demonstration in Rezua sub-township and two leaders from Zotung Women’s Organization who led that demonstration were also summoned by the police,” she added.
If found guilty, the women can be sentenced to a maximum sentence of one year imprisonment or a maximum fine of thirty thousand kyat or both, according to the law.
The women added that the rationale for the peaceful demonstration was based on recent incidents which have troubled the locals. A Burmese soldier attempted to rape one woman in Rezua town earlier this month, and Dr. Zaw Thein Kyaw from Matupi Hospital has reportedly been extorting money from the locals for issuing birth certificates.