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Phyu Hnin Htwe, the student activist and member of All Burma Federation of Student Unions (ABFSU), who was arrested in September for allegedly kidnapping two Chinese nationals working with the mining company Wanbao – walked free as charges against her were dropped on Wednesday.
Her arrest followed an incident in May when villagers, whose lands were allegedly seized to make way for the Latpadaung copper mine, detained the Chinese nationals only to release them after a verbal deal was negotiated with government authorities. She was charged under sections 346 and 368 of Burma’s penal code – kidnapping with intent to murder, and wrongful confinement, respectively – and faced up to ten years behind bars.
Following her release, Phyu Hnin Htwe spoke to DVB about the entire ordeal from the time of her arrest to the time in prison.
Q: Where were you when the two Wanbao surveyors were kidnapped?
A: I was in Tonywa village.
Q: And where did the incident take place?
A: In nearby Sete village.
Q: So you were not at the scene. So why were you arrested?
A: When the villagers first detained the two Chinese workers, I was not in Sete. But afterwards, the villagers called up to tell me that they had detained the two surveyors, so I went there. The abduction took place around 9am and I arrived there somewhere between 9:45 and 10:00 am.
Q: What do you have to say about your arrest?
A: Wanbao and UMEH [joint partner, military-owned Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings] not only confiscated the villagers’ lands but also brutalised them. As for my prosecution, I think next time they should only sue someone when they have proper justification. I was innocent; however due to unfair charges, I locked up in jail for over a month. In that, I see no justice.
Q: Were you denied your rights as a prisoner?
A: I see that incident [my imprisonment] as a denial of my rights. I was not allowed to have any books or pens while in detention and was also refused the use of mosquito net.
Q: The villagers, who were initially charged along with you, were released and the charges against them dropped. Do you think you were prosecuted because you refused to go to the court hearing?
A: The trial began on 28 May and I was summoned. But because I believed I was innocent of the charges which I deemed unfair, I decided not to attend.
Q: Anything you would like to say?
A: The charges against me and the Latpadaung locals, since the very beginning, have been unfair. As we are all innocent, I see my release as prevalence of the truth.