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Christian freedom charity condemns sentence of Kachin activists

by Cara Bentley

Kachin state is in Myanmar but neighbours China and a small part of India. The Kachin people are mostly Christian. 

Three Kachin activists were sentenced on Friday by a court for their role in a peaceful demonstration in April calling on the Burmese government to help internally displaced people fleeing attacks by the Burma Army.

They were sentenced to six months in prison and a fine of 500,000 Kyats (£250) each. 

Activists Lum Zawng, Nang Pu and Zau Jat were charged with defamation of the army under Article 500 of Myanmar's penal code for their role in a rally back in April this year, and a press conference the following day, following the escalation of the conflict between the Burma Army and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA). 

More than 5,000 civilians were reportedly displaced as a result of fighting earlier this year, and at least 2,000 were trapped without access to humanitarian assistance for several weeks. The protests, in which Lum Zawng, Nang Pu and Zau Jet participated, called for assistance for those fleeing the conflict.

Christian Solidarity Worldwide have condemned this act and their East Asia Team Leader Benedict Rogers said: "This sentence is outrageous and completely unjustified. These three activists were appealing for aid for civilians trapped in the jungle fleeing fighting. Since when has peacefully appealing for humanitarian assistance been a crime?"

Last month, CSW hosted a visit of six activists from the Kachin and two other ethnic nationalities from northern Myanmar in London and Brussels.

They urged parliamentarians and policy-makers to put pressure on the government of Myanmar to allow unrestricted humanitarian access to all areas of Kachin and Shan states and to repeal laws which they say repress civil society and media.

Benedict Rogers added: "The decision to charge these three brave activists with defamation of the military was absurd, and the decision to convict, jail and fine them is a miscarriage of justice. 

"We call for their immediate and unconditional release and for this verdict to be reversed. No one peacefully protesting against war and for humanitarian assistance should ever be criminalised. Peaceful protest is a basic human right, and those who exercise that right to appeal for aid for people fleeing conflict deserve our respect and support."

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