Urgent appeal by the Shan Human Rights Foundation
November 28, 2017
Urgent appeal for charges to be dropped against nine Ho Pong farmers unjustly arrested four months ago
The Shan Human Rights Foundation is calling urgently for charges to be dropped against nine farmers, including a 12-year-old boy, from Ho Pong, southern Shan State, who were unjustly arrested by the Burma Army between July 15 and August 4, 2017, on suspicion of links to a Shan armed group.
The eight adults are being detained in Ho Pong police station, but only six have started going to court in Ho Pong, where no-shows and lack of cooperation by the Burma Army plaintiffs have continuously delayed court proceedings.
The 12-year-old boy (caught in possession of a walkie-talkie) was detained for three weeks until his parents learned he was being kept in Ho Pong police station. He was released on August 5, but has been called to court over ten times.
The accused are facing financial difficulty to pay for lawyers’ fees, food while in jail, and travel costs of their families to visit them from their villages – up to a day’s journey away. Several are suffering from health problems, having been tortured when they were arrested.
The farmers were arrested during a military operation by hundreds of Burma Army troops in northern Ho Pong township after a clash on July 14 with the Restoration Council of Shan State/Shan State Army (RCSS/SSA), which is a signatory of the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA). The government troops rounded up and tortured villagers indiscriminately, accusing them of supporting the RCSS/SSA.
The nine farmers were arrested for possession of items such as walkie-talkies, mobile phones, hunting rifles and bullets, even though these items are used by local villagers for everyday purposes. The lack of evidence to convict the farmers appears to be why the Burma Army is reluctant to appear or answer questions in court.
Details of the court proceedings of the nine arrested villagers are as follows:
|No.||Name||Age||Village where arrested||Burma Army Battalion(s) which made the arrest||Court process so far|
|1||Sai Win||12||Wan Kho Tawng||LIB 424||Has been called to court over ten times (with other accused farmers)|
|2||Lung Aw Na||40||Wan Nam Khok||IB 225, IB 249||No court hearing yet as Burma Army has not shown up|
|3||Sai Jing Da||28||Wan Nam Khok||IB 225, IB 249||No court hearing yet as Burma Army has not shown up|
|4||Sai Ko||37||Wan Nam Khok||IB 225, IB 249||1 court hearing but Burma Army refused to answer questions|
|5||Sai Hla Tun||24||Wan Kho Tawng||LIB 424||3 court hearings, but Burma Army did not show up for 2 hearings|
|6||Sai Jarm||29||Wan Khok Lao||LIB 424||1 court hearing but Burma Army avoided answering questions|
|7||Sai Panda||30||Wan Khok Lao||LIB 424||1 court hearing but Burma Army avoided answering questions|
|8||Lung Hsang Sai||47||Wan Kun Koong||IB 249||7 court hearings, but Burma Army did not show up for 4 hearings, and avoided questions in 2 hearings|
|9||Sai Khun||30||Wan Mark Lang||IB 249||4 court hearings, but Burma Army did not show up for 3 hearings, and avoided questions in 1 hearing|
SHRF deplores the injustice of these arrests and court proceedings, and the prolonged suffering being inflicted on these farmers and their families.
SHRF therefore calls urgently for the unjust charges against these nine farmers to be dropped, and for them all to be released immediately and unconditionally.
Sai Hor Hseng
Ying Lawnt Lieng