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Arrest Warrants Issued Against Human Rights Defenders Messrs Moe Thway, Wai Lu and Wai Hmuu Thwin

By Frontline Defenders  •  June 20, 2013

On 20 June 2013, human rights defenders Messrs Moe ThwayWai Lu and Wai Hmuu Thwin published a statement regarding the arrest warrants issued against them on 13 June 2013 by Monywa Court under section 505 (b) of the Penal Code, “offences against the state or against public tranquillity.” These arrest warrants are reportedly linked to comments the human rights defenders had made about the Letpadaung copper mine project, a joint venture between the Burmese military’s Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings Limited (UMEHL) and Wan Bao Company, a subsidiary of a Chinese arms manufacturer.

Moe Thway is a member of Generation Wave Youth Force, a network of human rights defenders that campaigns for civil and political rights, including by putting pressure on the Burmese government to sign the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. They have also been campaigning against the Letpadaung mine and have brought the campaign to national attention. Wai Lu and Wai Hmuu Thwin are part of the Yangon People Service Network which campaigns for the respect of rule of law and democracy in Burma. The campaign against the Letpadaung project is also part of their work.

The Letpadaung copper mining project has been marred by protests; last November police used smoke bombs to disperse the crowd, injuring dozens of demonstrators, including monks, and triggering a national outcry. Activists have been facing harassment since opposition to the project began. On 25 April 2013, villagers in the Letpadaung area tried to plough their fields but were prohibited by police from entering under section 144, or power to issue order absolute at once in urgent cases of nuisance or apprehended danger, of the Criminal Procedure Code. It is reported that the police opened fire on the crowd and two villagers were arrested along with one activist. Warrants were also issued for the arrests of eight other activists and villagers. On 8 May 2013, because villagers had become afraid of police raids, the three human rights defenders, along with Mr Aung Thu of the 1988 Student Generation, went to Monywa to calm tensions there. They informed police of their intentions in this regard. While they were there, some local reporters interviewed Moe Thway, Wai Lu and Wai Hmuu Thwin. During the interview, observed by police from the Special Branch, the human rights defenders gave their opinions on the use of section 144 to keep the villagers from ploughing their fields, opinions which were perceived as damaging the police and government’s credibility.

Therefore, on 13 June 2013, warrants were issued for the arrests of the three human rights defenders. On 15 June 2013, Moe Thway received a phone call from Lieutenant Khin Zaw Latt, who had ordered the issuance of the warrants. The Lieutenant summoned the three human rights defenders to appear at Monywa Police Station.

Front Line Defenders is concerned about the issuance of arrest warrants against Moe Thway, Wai Lu and Wai Hmuu Thwin, as it believes this act to be in direct contravention of their right to freedom of expression as enshrined by international law. Front Line Defenders further believes that the arrest warrants are directly related to their peaceful and legitimate work in defence of land rights in the Letpadaung area.

Front Line Defenders urges the authorities in Burma to: 

1. Immediately and unconditionally revoke the arrest warrants against Moe Thway, Wai Lu and Wai Hmuu Thwin as it is believed they are solely motivated by their peaceful and legitimate work in defence of human rights;

2. Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Burma are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions including judicial harassment.

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This post is in: Press Release

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