Nine students charged under Peaceful Assembly Act following demonstration in Yangon against internet blackout

Ni Min Tun
Narinjara February 26th 2020

Nine student leaders who participated in demonstrations demanding internet services be resumed in 8 Rakhine townships and Paletwa Township, Chin State, have been charged under the Peaceful Assembly Act, Article 19.  Amongst them, six students are being questioned in Kamaryut Police Station.

The six currently being questioned are from the All Burma Students Union.  They include Ko Zaw Htet Naing, Ko Aung Pyae Sone Hpyu, Ma Hnin, Ma Aye Myat Mon Kyaw, Ko Naung Htet Aung and Ko Thu Ta Soe.

Three other students leaders – Ko Kyaw Lin, Ko Myat Hein Htun from Rakhine Students Union (Yangon Universities) and Ko Thet Win Aung from All Burma Students Union - have also had charges filed against them.

Ko Myat Hein Htun who is facing charges, spoke to Narinjara. “They filed lawsuits under the Peaceful Assembly Act for demonstrating yesterday against the internet blackout.  I know the six student leaders from the All Burma Students Union are being questioned.  Restriction on freedom of expression under the Peaceful Assembly Act, Article 19 is not in line with democratic standards, and therefore I cannot accept this.  This should not be happening” he said.

Yesterday on 23rd February in Yangon, students from the Rakhine Students Union (Yangon Universities), All Burma Students Union and Yangon Business University (Ywar Thar Gyi Area) joined together to protest and demand an end to the internet blackout in Rakhine State and Paletwa, Chin State.

According to one police officer in Kamaryut Police Station, “a case has been opened concerning their demonstration.  Kamaryut Police Station opened the case.   The township police chief Thein Han has filed a complaint.  The police station chief, and deputy chief Ye Myo Oo, are investigating the complaint.  There are nine people under investigation.  We have contacted the All Burma Students Union.  Six of them are being questioned, the remaining three have not yet come in.  We are unable to contact the other three.  They have not yet been charged.  The three remaining will have to be questioned and then go to court. That’s what’s planned.

According to the police officer, no arrests have been made, they have just been called in for questioning. The case has been filed under the Peaceful Assembly Act Article 19.

“No arrests have been made, they’ve just been called in for questioning, for the record.  In accordance with the law, they didn’t notify the respective authorities when they held this kind of demonstration, therefore a complaint was made in accordance with the Peaceful Assembly Act, Article 19” he said.

The demonstration included the demands to resume internet services in all areas of Rakhine State, without exceptions, for those responsible for the shelling of a school in Buthidaung to be held to account, and for national and international media to be able to access areas and gather news.

The internet shutdown was first imposed on June 21st 2019, in Buthidaung, Rathedaung, Maungdaw, Kyaukdaw, Ponnarkyun, Mrauk Oo, Minbya, Myebon and Chin State’s Paletwa.

Although internet services were resumed in five townships including Buthidaung, Rathedaung, Maungdaw, Myebon and Paletwa Townships on September 1st, the blackout was again imposed on February 4th.

The current internet blackout is the world’s longest imposed on an area, impacting over 800,000 people. On 22nd February demonstrations took place in Sittwe, Kyaukphyu and Taunggok Towns, demanding services be resumed.