Myanmar jails six activists who opposed copper mine: lawyer

Date of publication: 
15 May 2015

A Myanmar court sentenced six activists opposed to a controversial Chinese-backed copper mine to over four years in prison Friday, a lawyer in the case said.

The campaigners were arrested following December protests near the Chinese embassy in Yangon calling for the closure of the mine venture in the central town of Monywa, which has been dogged by complaints of land-grabbing and environmental damage.

“All six activists were sentenced to four years and four months imprisonment each,” lawyer Robert San Aung, who represented five of the activists, told AFP.

He said the court found them guilty on charges including defying an order to disperse, disrupting the duty of a civil servant and protesting without permission.

Myanmar has earned international approval for political and economic reforms since the end of outright army rule in 2011.

But rights groups and the opposition have raised fears that the reforms are stalling, with arrests of dozens of protesters and signs of a squeeze on media freedoms.

The Letpadaung mine — run by Chinese firm Wanbao as part of a joint venture with a major Myanmar military conglomerate —- has raised questions about Myanmar’s reliance on investment from neighbouring China, which gave crucial political support to the former junta.

Protests in Yangon were sparked by the death of Khin Win, in her 50s, who was shot dead by police near the mine in December, during clashes with demonstrators trying to stop the mine company from building a fence in territory disputed with local farmers.

Authorities have yet to announce any prosecutions in the killing.

Police in March rejected a lawsuit by monks who suffered phosphorus burns at the hands of officers when they protested against the Letpadaung mine in 2012.

Robert San Aung said the activists had little faith in the country’s court system, which was chronically undermined by decades of military control.

“They said they do not trust the judicial system here. They do not trust the government either,” he said, adding they were unlikely to appeal.


Myanmar: Activists Imprisoned for Protesting

Amnesty International Urgent Action – UA 2/15, UPDATE 1, AI Index: ASA 16/1682/2015 (the original index number is ASA 16/001/2015 of 6 January 2015)

19 May 2015

Six human rights activists have been sentenced to four years and four months’ imprisonment in Myanmar solely for participating in a peaceful demonstration against the shooting to death of a protester. They must be immediately and unconditionally released.

On 15 May, human rights activists Naw Ohn Hla, San San Win (aka Lay Lay), Sein Htwe, Nay Myo Zin, Tin Htut Paing, and Than Swe, were sentenced to a total of four years and four months’ imprisonment by Dagon Township Court in Yangon, Myanmar’s largest city. They were sentenced for participating in a peaceful protest on 30 December 2014 which called on the Myanmar authorities to carry out an investigation into the death of Khin Win. She was shot dead on 22 December 2014 when police opened fire on her and other protesters demonstrating against land being taken over for the Letpadaung copper mine project in Sagaing region, central Myanmar.

The six activists were sentenced under a number of articles of the Penal Code, including “rioting” and for protesting without permission under the Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Law. Amnesty International considers these charges to be politically motivated and without foundation. The six activists are currently detained in Insein prison in Yangon.

Nay Myo Zin and Naw Ohn Hla are also facing additional charges for the same protest in four other township courts in Yangon, and could be sentenced to a further two years in prison if found guilty.

Please write again.

  • Call on the authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Naw Ohn Hla, San San Win, Sein Htwe, Nay Myo Zin, Tin Htut Paing and Than Swe.
  • Urge them to ensure that, until they are released, they are not tortured or ill-treated in other ways, are not transferred to remote prisons, have regular access to family members and lawyers of their choosing, and are provided with any medical care which they may require.
  • Ask the authorities to conduct a thorough, impartial and effective investigation into the killing of Khin Win and other allegations that police used excessive force against the Letpadaung protesters. Urge them to bring those responsible for human rights violations to justice in trials which meet international standards of fairness, and without recourse to the death penalty.

Address your appeals to
Chairman, Myanmar National Human Rights Commission:
U Win Mra
27 Pyay Road, Hline Township
Yangon, Republic of the Union of Myanmar
Fax: 011 95 1 659 668
Salutation: Dear Chairman

Chairman, Prisoners of Conscience Affairs Committee:
Br. Gen. Kyaw Kyaw Tun
Ministry of Home Affairs
Office No. 10
Nay Pyi Taw, Republic of the Union of Myanmar
Salutation: Dear General

Please send a copy to
His Excellency Hau Do Suan Ambassador for Myanmar
336 Island Park Drive
Ottawa, Ontario K1Y 0A7
Fax: (613) 232-6999
Email: meottawa [at] rogers [dot] com

Thein Sein
President’s Office
Nay Pyi Taw
Republic of the Union of Myanmar
Fax: 011 95 1 652 624
Additional information

Local communities and activists continue to oppose the development of the new Letpadaung copper mine because of concerns about environmental damage, risk of forced evictions and negative impacts on the communities’ rights to housing, food, and work amongst other rights. The Myanmar authorities have responded to such opposition by using excessive force against peaceful protesters on several occasions and by resorting to arbitrary arrest and detention – both Naw Ohn Hla and Tin Htut Paing have in the past been arrested and detained for their peaceful demonstrations against the Letpadaung copper mine. In November 2012 police used white phosphorus against peaceful protesters, in an attack which left people with lifelong injuries. To date no one has been held to account for the attack.

Amnesty International has undertaken a detailed investigation into the Monywa mining project, of which the Letpadaung copper mine forms part. The investigation found a range of human rights abuses and illegal conduct linked to the project. Thousands of people have been forcibly evicted to make way for the project, and thousands more remain at risk of losing their homes and livelihoods due to ongoing development at the Letpadaung mine (See UA: Amnesty International is also concerned that Myanmar still lacks adequate safeguards to protect people from corporate human rights abuses. For further details, see Amnesty International, Open for business? Corporate crime and abuses at Myanmar copper mine: briefing, available at:

The Myanmar authorities continue to arrest and imprison activists and human rights defenders simply for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, rights which are enshrined in Articles 19 and 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). Amnesty International is concerned about a number of laws in Myanmar which restrict the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, including the Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Law, which has been used to arrest and imprison scores of peaceful activists and human rights defenders since it was enacted in 2012.

The six activists were sentenced to four months’ imprisonment for protesting without permission under Article 18 of the Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Law, two years for publishing or circulating information which may cause public fear or alarm and may incite persons to commit offences “against the State or against the public tranquillity” (Section 505(b) of the Penal Code), one year for assaulting or preventing a public servant from the discharge of his duty (Section 353), and one year for “rioting” (Section 147).

Amnesty International continues to receive reports about poor prison conditions in Myanmar, which do not comply with international standards such as those set out in the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners. These concerns include a lack of access to adequate medical treatment, clean drinking water, nutritious food and water for bathing.