BURMA: Young woman and man illegally held and charged without evidence over protests


Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-UAC-083-2008
ISSUES: Arbitrary arrest & detention, Judicial system, Military, Police violence, Prison conditions, Rule of law, State of emergency & martial law,

Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) regrets to inform you that a young woman and young man are among those persons currently being tried in courts in Burma over their alleged roles in the nationwide protests of last August and September. The two were illegally held without charge for months before being brought to the courts, yet even then the police have not been able to concoct any evidence to support the cases against them and appear to be relying simply upon the judges to pass guilty verdicts irrespective of whether or not there is any procedure or facts applied to their cases.


Ma Honey Oo, a 21-year-old law student, is accused of having had contact with overseas radio stations to give out information at the time of the protests last September that obtained worldwide attention, and having been involved in making a student union and having been involved in the protests. She was taken into custody on October 9 but was not brought before a court until December 20; during those more than two months she was held illegally without charge at the central prison.

Honey Oo has been charged with sedition and under the illegal associations law. However, when the two cases came in to court it was revealed that the police had no evidence of any sort against her except their oral assertions and on the contrary they could not explain how she might have been protesting or what time she had been protesting when the defence lawyer pointed out that she was attending university exams at the time that they claimed to have seen her. They showed ignorance and confusion about the sections of law under which they had brought her to court and also about the correct procedure. For instance, they presented the statements that they had taken from her as evidence to the court, which is not permitted. When the defence lawyer again pointed to this the Tamwe police chief insisted that in some situations it is but when asked to identify them by the lawyer he could not. The police also made virtually identical statements to the court in the two cases against her although the distinctive charges of sedition and illegal association should be framed on separate issues.

Aung Min Naing, 20, has also been charged with being involved in one of the protests of August 23, at Tamwe. He was detained on that day and illegally held in custody without charge at the central prison until December, when he was charged with sedition and put back in jail. At his trial, again the police have been unable to present any evidence to support their case except for again giving the confession of the accused, which as noted is not permitted as evidence in court and which anyway did not contain anything other than an admission that the accused had gone to protest because he was dissatisfied with rising prices caused by the government’s increase in fuel charges.

As in Honey Oo’s case, when Aung Min Naing’s lawyer asked them why they were bringing the case as one of sedition and not just obstructing a public road, the police could not explain. They could also not explain why he in particular, and not the many other people involved in the protests, was being charged. Nor could they account for the period of illegal detention except by saying that it was not their responsibility.

In both cases, the police denied that they had forced the testimonies that they presented to the court from the victims or that they had arrested and detained them illegally but when challenged on these points could not give further explanations.


The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has been documenting cases of illegal arrest, detention and prosecution since the nationwide protests in Burma last September and has in recent months also issued a number of other recent cases of young women imprisoned under similar circumstances and on similar charges, in particular, Khin Sanda Win (AHRC-UAC-022-2008) and Ma Thanda (AHRC-UAC-048-2008). See also the case of Ko Thiha (AHRC-UAC-052-2008).

For links and other material on the protests in Burma of August and September 2007 see: http://campaigns.ahrchk.net/burmaprotests/

See also the comprehensive report on Burma: “Burma, political psychosis and legal dementia” issued by the AHRC’s sister organisation and the 2007 AHRC Human Rights Report chapter on Burma. 



Please write to the persons listed below to call for the cases against Honey Oo and Aung Min Naing to be dropped. Please note that for the purpose of the letter, the country should be referred to by its official title of Myanmar, rather than Burma.

Please be informed that the AHRC is writing a separate letter to the UN Special Rapporteurs on Myanmar and independence of judges and lawyers as well as the UN Special Representative on human rights defenders, the UN Working Group on arbitrary detention, the International Labour Office and the regional human rights office for Southeast Asia, calling for interventions into this case.

To support this case, please click here: SEND APPEAL LETTER


Dear ___________,

MYANMAR: Young woman and man illegally held and charged without evidence over protests

Details of victims: 
1. Ma Honey Oo, 21, daughter of U Tun Oo, residing in Natmauk Ward, Tamwe, Yangon Division, final year law student, detained on 9 October 2007
2. Aung Min Naing, 20, son of U Thar Nyunt, residing in Kyimyindaing, Yangon, detained on 7 September 2007
Primary police officers involved: 
1. Police Deputy Superintendent Soe Moe Aung, No. La/134172, Tamwe Police Station, arresting officer
2. Police Superintendent Hla Thein, No. La/155953, chief of police, Tamwe Police Station, in charge of investigation
3. Police Deputy Superintendent Hla Htun, Special Branch
Charge and trial: Charged with sedition, Penal Code sn. 124A (both accused), and sn. 143 and the Organisation Law No. 6/88 in Yangon Eastern District Court Felony Case Nos. 30/2008 and 31/2008 (Honey Oo), and 32/2008 (Aung Min Naing) opening depositions heard on 19 March 2008, Daw Aye Thein, Deputy District Judge (1), Ta/1724 presiding

I am greatly concerned about the trial being conducted against two young people in Myanmar, Ma Honey Oo and Aung Min Naing, in connection with the nationwide protests against increasing commodity prices there last year.

According to the information that I have received the two are being tried in court without evidence and despite having been held in prison without charge or correct procedure applied prior to having the cases opened against them.

In Honey Oo’s case, the police have accused her of having been involved in a student union, having talked to foreign media by telephone and of having participated in protests at the Yuzana Plaza and on the road from Mingalar Market to Natmauk on 25-6 September 2007. However, when pressed in court they could not produce any evidence to support any of their claims and on the contrary showed ignorance and confusion about the laws under which she had been brought, the Tamwe police chief admitting that he does not precisely understand the law on sedition and whether or not the case had the necessary elements to meet its requirements. When it was pointed out to them that Honey Oo had had exams on the day that she was supposedly protesting they also could not explain the exact time, places or other details that she was supposedly involved in the events. The police chief also brought the statements that had been taken from Honey Oo into the court, which is a violation of section 27 of the Evidence Act; however, when asked about this point he appeared not to know the precise details of the law on evidence and insisted that in some circumstances he could give these testimonies but was unable to explain further.

Importantly, Honey Oo was first detained on 9 October 2007; however, she was not put in remand until December 20, during which time she was held in Building 3 of Insein Prison without charge, which amounts to illegal arrest and detention and during which time a Special Branch investigation under Police Deputy Superintendent Hla Htun was able to allegedly torture her to obtain a number the statements that were wrongly presented in court on March 19.

Aung Min Naing has been accused of joining around 50 persons and on August 23 going to Tamwe Plaza and the road in front of the Tamwe Temporary Market and Kyaukmyaung Market and marching in protest at the fuel price hikes, for which he has also been charged with sedition without the police apparently properly understanding the charges they have brought against him. Like in the case of Honey Oo they have been able to produce no evidence, be it written, photographic, audio or video, to support their accusations other than a confession obtained during police custody which they have again brought to the court in violation of criminal procedure. Even in that statement there is nothing to support the charge of sedition, as the accused stresses that he took to the streets because of dissatisfaction with the increase in fuel prices. And like Honey Oo, Aung Min Naing was held illegally and without charge from the time of the protest until December 14.

I am appalled not only that these cases have been brought to court by police that apparently have no evidence and have little understanding of the law, but also that the public prosecutor has failed to do the job of making a robust case and likewise that the presiding judge has not yet addressed the manifest defects in the case and stopping proceedings on the basis of these. I thus call for the concerned senior officials, including the Minister of Home Affairs, the Director General of Police, the Attorney General and the Chief Justice to look into these two cases with a view either to having the prosecution withdrawn or having the presiding judge close the proceedings on grounds of lack of evidence and other flagrant irregularities that render the prospects for fair trial impossible. I also call for a review of the handling of these cases by the concerned police and township law office staff in view of their apparent disregard and ignorance of law and procedure.

Finally, I take this opportunity to remind the Government of Myanmar of the need to allow the International Committee of the Red Cross access to places of detention and not least of all, access to those persons and forcibly disrobed monks and nuns who have been held in violation of criminal procedure and without charge or trial since the events of last September.

Yours sincerely


1. Maj-Gen. Maung Oo
Minister for Home Affairs
Ministry of Home Affairs
Office No. 10
Tel: +95 67 412 079/ 549 393/ 549 663
Fax: +95 67 412 439

2. Lt-Gen. Thein Sein
Prime Minister
c/o Ministry of Defence
Tel: + 95 1 372 681
Fax: + 95 1 652 624

3. U Aung Toe
Chief Justice
Office of the Supreme Court
Office No. 24
Tel: + 95 67 404 080/ 071/ 078/ 067 or + 95 1 372 145
Fax: + 95 67 404 059

4. U Aye Maung
Attorney General
Office of the Attorney General
Office No. 25
Tel: +95 67 404 088/ 090/ 092/ 094/ 097
Fax: +95 67 404 146/ 106

5. Brig-Gen. Khin Yi
Director General
Myanmar Police Force
Ministry of Home Affairs
Office No. 10
Tel: +95 67 412 079/ 549 393/ 549 663
Fax: +95 67 412 439

Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Programme 
Asian Human Rights Commission (ua@ahrchk.org)