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5 fined for protesting Mrauk-U crackdown

Five youths protest in Sittwe on 17 January against a fatal police crackdown in Mrauk-U the day before. (PHOTO: DVB)

Five Rakhine youths have been charged for staging a protest against a police crackdown on activists in Mrauk-U on 16 January when seven demonstrators were killed and many injured.

The five staged a rally in front of the Rakhine state cabinet building in Sittwe on 17 January, bearing placards calling for the government to take full responsibility for the killings.

Police Major Than Kyaw, the chief of Sittwe township police force, told DVB that the five men were charged under the Peaceful Assembly Law for failing to seek a permit prior to holding the rally.

“We have charged the five men under the Peaceful Assembly Law since they did not obtain prior permission before holding the rally,” he said. “The charges will be dropped as soon as they pay a fine, which is 30,000 kyat [US$22.50] each.”

Speaking to DVB in Sittwe on the day of their demonstration, one of the five, Khaing Thurein, said, “Yesterday, the authorities violently attacked civilians who were protesting peacefully. Several people were killed and injured. This was an abuse of power. We cannot accept incidents like this. We are staging this protest in an attempt to prevent this from recurring. The government must assume sole responsibility for the bloody crackdown.”

The Burmese government has confirmed that seven protesters were killed, while another 12 protesters and 20 police officers were injured during what was described by officials as a “riot” on 16 January when several thousand people marched to the township administrator’s office in Mrauk-U to protest a decision to prohibit a commemoration ceremony for the 233rd anniversary of the fall of the Arakan kingdom.

Mrauk-U police station said local authorities ordered the protesters to disperse, but they did not comply and threw stones instead. Police fired warning shots to clear the protesters before, apparently, training their guns on the crowd.