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Maday protesters should not face charges: HRW

US-based Human Rights Watch on Saturday called for the Myanmar authorities to drop charges against 10 persons who took part in a demonstration on April 18 on Maday Island in Rakhine State to protest against the conditions being implemented for the oil and gas pipeline project which is based locally.

The Kyaunkpyu-to-Kumming Oil and Gas Pipeline Project under construction in Rakhine State. Photo: Shwe GasThe 10 are due to face criminal charges in court on May 13 under a 2011 law relating to ‘Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession,’ or de facto for holding a protest without an official permit.

“Peaceful protesters should not face prison time for exercising their basic rights,” said Phil Robertson, the deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “By jailing peaceful protesters, the Burmese [Myanmar] government is creating a new class of political prisoners. No genuinely reformist leadership would oversee the prosecution of people who peacefully challenge the state’s development plans.”

Local sources told Human Rights Watch that the protesters twice applied for a permit and were denied each time. Authorities told the applicants that their application was denied because Maday Island is under a state of emergency.

However, in its April report titled “All You Can Do is Pray,” Human Rights Watch said they found no instances of violence between Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya on Maday Island over the past year, and therefore no state of emergency should apply.

Those arrested for violating the Peaceful Assembly Law are listed as: Tun Kyi, 33, Aung Thein Tun, 44, Tun Khin Nu, 36, and Maung Phu Thee, 32, all from Ywama village; Maung Maung Sun, 32, and Maung Maung Soe, 30, from Prein village; Maung Maung Myint, 36, Maung Yin Hla, 38, and Maung Myo Naing, 32, from Kyauk Tann village; and Tin Oo Kyaw, 40, from Pann Tein Seay village.

“The activists staged a protest to voice concerns about loss of land, environmental risks associated with oil and gas exploration and production, and other grievances in response to the Shwe gas project and related off-shore and on-shore components,” Human Rights Watch said in a report on Saturday. “The protest organizers released a public statement on May 2 with 12 demands to the project operators and the state-owned Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise, calling for the project to be postponed until their demands were met. The demands were agreed upon at consultations conducted by three community-based organizations with the residents of 17 villages in the area, accounting for an estimated 20,000 people.”

The report said numerous villagers on Maday Island and throughout the pipeline corridor to China have reportedly lost their land due to the project and have received either inadequate or no compensation, raising concerns about their long-term livelihoods.

The New York-based organization said that most residents of Maday Island rely on farming and fishing for their livelihoods and have voiced concerns over potential environmental degradation associated with the industrial development projects.

For more background:
  1. Maday protesters released on bail
  2. CNPC denies firing workers on Maday Island
  3. Conflict in Shan State could disrupt gas flow
Last Updated ( Monday, 13 May 2013 15:45 )