BURMA: Another person charged with sedition for protesting against price rises


Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-UAC-146-2008
ISSUES: Arbitrary arrest & detention, Freedom of expression, Judicial system, Military, Police violence, Rule of law, State of emergency & martial law,

Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has obtained detailed information on the case of Ko Htin Kyaw, one of the persons who was illegally detained in Burma since August 2007 for being involved in the first protests against the sudden increases in fuel prices that led to the monk-led nationwide rallies in September. His case is similar to a number of other cases from that time on which the AHRC has issued appeals as he was detained for a long time without charge and at an army barracks, in violation of criminal procedure, and the charge of sedition that was made against him does not match the evidence.


Ko Htin Kyaw was among the first persons to protest against the August 15 price rises in fuel from last year that provoked the nationwide uprising in September (see AS-197-2007). On August 25 he and another person, Ko Zaw Nyunt, came onto the street outside a market in the centre of Rangoon at about 1pm with a plastic sheet bearing the letters CNG (Compressed Natural Gas) with a cross over the top and a slogan calling for prices not to be increased. Shortly afterwards men in plain clothes came and grabbed them and threw them into an unmarked vehicle before driving them away (see AS-201-2007). This manner of arrest occurred despite the fact that the police station is very close to where the demonstration was held.

Although according to the law in Burma Htin Kyaw and Zaw Nyunt should have been taken to a police station and then to a court within 24 hours, they were taken to a special interrogation army camp. Zaw Nyunt was released after some weeks, during which time his whereabouts were unknown to friends and relatives and government officials denied having him in custody. Htin Kyaw, however, was charged on 6 February 2008. During this time he was transferred to a police battalion without any legal procedure being followed.

When Htin Kyaw was at last brought to court he was charged with sedition, which requires proof that the accused person had “excited disaffection” or hatred towards the state. However, all of the evidence that has been brought against him shows only that he called for the lowering of commodities prices, as on previous occasions, and did not say or do anything to malign the government itself. In fact, the police and other witnesses brought to the court agreed that prices had increased and that the complaints made in the protest were legitimate.


Htin Kyaw had in February 2007 led a small protest against increasing price rises in Burma. He had been detained and investigated but released after six days. However, the allegations of a crime committed on that occasion have also been included against him in the charges arising from the protest in August. In each case he and the other dozen or so demonstrators had issued demands that were strictly economic and non-political in nature, such as that inflation be brought down, that health and education services be provided for free, and that there be reliable electricity supply. Groups of plain-clothed thugs under direction of the local council then also were used to break up the protests. 
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, including the cases of U Ohn Than (AHRC-UAC-131-2008), Honey Oo and Aung Min Naing (AHRC-UAC-083-2008), Ko Thiha (AHRC-UAC-052-2008) and Khin Sanda Win (AHRC-UAC-022-2008). See also the case of Ma Thida, who was recently charged and jail on the same charge as that against Htin Kyaw (AHRC-UAC-048-2008).

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 case against Htin Kyaw 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 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: Charges of sedition against person who demonstrated against rising commodity prices

Details of accused: 
Ko Htin Kyaw (a.k.a. Kyaw Htin), 44, residing in 10th Street, Ward 5, North Okkalapa
Primary officials involved: 
1. Deputy Police Major Myint Swe, No. La/59314, Papedan Township Police, Yangon
2. Deputy Police Superintendent Thein Naing Oo
3. Warrant Officer Min Naung 
4. Corporal Myo Naing 
5. Corporal Win Maung
6. Colonel Nay Myo Thu, No. 28605, Army Region 4, assigned to Yangon City Town Hall
Charge and trial: Charged with sedition, Penal Code sn. 124A in Yangon Western District Court Felony Case No. 16/2008; charge lodged on 6 February 2008 and opening depositions heard on 20 March 2008, U Htay Win, Deputy District Judge (5), presiding

I am very disappointed to learn that yet another person in Myanmar is being charged with the very serious offence of sedition for nothing more than having called for the increase in fuel prices of last 15 August 2008 to be reversed.

According to the information that I have received Ko Htin Kyaw is being tried in court without evidence and despite having been held in prison without charge or correct procedure applied prior to having the case opened against him.

I am aware that Htin Kyaw was taken from the street outside Maha Theindawgyi Monastery in Papedan Township while demonstrating with a placard calling for no increase to fuel prices at around 1pm on 25 August 2008. His being taken cannot in any way be likened to an arrest. Video footage shows his companion being dragged to a waiting unmarked vehicle by a group of unidentified men, some of whom have now come before the court to identify themselves as local traders and personnel of the township council. The so-called arrest of Htin Kyaw occurred without any uniformed police officers being present even though the Pansodan Township Police Station is only a short distance from where the incident occurred.

Not only was his being taken in this manner completely contrary to the law of Myanmar, he was not taken to a police station or produced before a court within 24 hours as required (Criminal Procedure Code, CrPC, section 61). Instead he was taken to and held at the Kyaikkasan army interrogation camp and some time later transferred to the Thanlyin Police Battalion No. 7 (violation of section 59 of the CrPC). The Papedan Township Police did not lodge the sedition charge in court until 6 February 2008, and did not even bring his case to the notice of a court until 11 November 2007. Thus he was kept in illegal custody for 165 days.

Finally, when the case was lodged in court it was found that he was being charged with sedition. This offence carries a life sentence and requires that it be proven that the accused has attempted “to bring into hatred or contempt, or… excite disaffection towards” the government. However, there is no element of this offence in any of the evidence that has been brought by the police against Htin Kyaw, which only shows that he had gone and called for the prices of fuels to not be increased. He has also been accused in relation to a rally in which he participated on 22 February 2007, again calling for lower commodity prices, after which he was already investigated and released.

I see no reason for the court to be hearing this case. Not only has Htin Kyaw been illegally arrested and detained, furthermore the charges against him are groundless.

I note that under the new Constitution of Myanmar 2008 the Supreme Court of Myanmar is authorised to examine the activities of lower courts and give directions accordingly by issuing writs. I thus call upon the court to take notice of this case in the district court and give directions that it be closed immediately.

I likewise call for the Attorney General to review the case and instruct the Yangon Western District Law Office to withdraw the case from the court as per section 4(b) of the Attorney General Law 2001, and for the Minister of Home Affairs and Director General of Police also to look into the matter both with a view to seeing the case withdrawn and also in order to review the work of their subordinates which has evidently gone on without any knowledge of or regard to the Code of Criminal Procedure, laws of evidence and other basic elements of the criminal justice system in Myanmar.

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: +951 549 663 / 549 208

Thank you.

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