14-year-old Mai Cho Min Htwe was convicted without a trial on 30th October 2017 for allegedly being involved with an ethnic armed group. On 30th October, he was sentenced to two years in prison. There was no proper trial and he had no access to lawyers until three days after he was convicted.
Please write to the State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi urging her to immediately and unconditionally release Mai Cho Min Htwe and repeal all repressive laws.
The Burmese Army Light Infantry Division 105 arrested Mai Cho Min Htwe on 5th October after allegedly finding the photograph while searching the boy’s mobile phone during a traffic stop. He was detained at the Light Infantry Brigade 324 operational camp in Namhsan Township for a week before transferring him to the Namhsan Police Station.
According to Mai Cho Min Htwe’s lawyer, military officers reportedly interrogated Mai Cho Min Htwe overnight, beat him, and deprived him of sleep, food, and water.
The charges are related to an alleged photo of Mai Cho Min Htwe in a Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) uniform. The TNLA is an ethnic armed group based in northern Shan State that is engaged in armed conflict with the Burmese Army. He was charged under Article 17(1) of the Unlawful Associations Act.
The Act was drafted during colonial times, and it was originally used to oppress those who opposed colonial rule. It has been used by successive governments in Burma to oppress people from forming an organisation or working with organisations which were declared illegal by the military regime.
Even under the NLD-led government, people are still in jail or being arrested and charged under the Unlawful Associations Act. This can be for variety of reasons, such as they happen to belong to the same ethnic group as an ethnic armed organisation or suspicion of helping an ethnic armed group after their troops walked through or stayed in their villages.
Journalists also get arrested and charged for interviewing members of ethnic armed groups or travelling to areas under their control. It is also most commonly used against members of ethnic minorities in Burma.
Please take action calling for the immediate and unconditional release of Mai Cho Min Htwe and for the repeal of all repressive laws, including the Unlawful Associations Act.
Your message will be sent via the Burmese Embassy in London.