Activists who joined the widespread protests calling for sufficient electricity supplies in Mandalay in May have been charged by the city’s police for demonstrating without official permission.
Following frequent power cuts during the hot season, protests kicked off in Mandalay on 20 May and eventually spread throughout the country to Rangoon, Monywa and Prome.
Ahmar Ni, who participated in the demonstrations in May, said Mandalay’s Police Station-8 informed her on 6 October that she would be charged for protesting without a permit.
While demonstrations are technically legal in Burma, in accordance with the Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Law, permission to publicly protest must be sought five days in advance and applications can be rejected at the authorities’ discretion.
“We were [protesting] for what was necessary for the people and the [Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Law] only existed as a bill during the time but had not come into effect yet – I remember this very well,” said Ahmar Ni.
“We weren’t even organisers in the protest but were only participants just like all the other people who simply wished to have sufficient electricity supplies.”
Several protesters, including Ahmar Ni, were taken in for questioning by Mandalay Police’s Criminal Investigation Department on 23 May.
According to Min Htet Nyein Chan, vice president of Mandalay Base Environmental Group, at least 10 other activists, including himself, have also been charged by the police.
“I received a call from the commander at the Police Station-8 the other day informing [me] that I have been charged under article 18 [of the Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Law],” said Min Htet Nyein Chan.
“I told him it has been quite a while and that we were already questioned by the SB [Special Intelligence Department] and he said that there was a directive from above and they needed our statements.”
The move comes after authorities in Rangoon charged two protestors for demonstrating without permission during the International Day of Peace rally in September. Another 11 protestors who demonstrated at the same rally may be hit with similar charges soon.
-Min Lwin contributed reporting.