UPDATE(Burma): Human rights defender sentenced to three years in jail for “illegal tuition”


Urgent Appeal Case: UP-108-2007
ISSUES: Human rights defenders, Judicial system, Rule of law, Threats and intimidation,

Dear friends,

Further to our most recent update on Burma from last week, the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) regrets to inform you that another human rights defender in Burma has been sentenced to jail for three years on the pretext of giving illegal tuition.

As described in the previous appeal (UP-105-2007), Ko Min Min was arrested on 10 July 2007 and charged with giving illegal tuition classes. In fact, the cause for his arrest was that he had given some talks about human rights at his house.

According to information received by the AHRC through various sources, on July 30 Min Min was given the maximum penalty of three years’ imprisonment and a fine of 30,000 Burmese Kyat (USD 250). Although a number of witnesses had testified strongly in his defence, including former students and local residents, in convicting him the judge reportedly said that their testimonies were not firm.

Witnesses at the courtroom said that around one hundred former students and friends had come to support Min Min, and many began crying when the judge gave the order. According to one unnamed student who spoke to the Democratic Voice of Burma shortwave radio service after leaving the court, the whole town was in shock at the imprisonment of the much-loved tutor, who had taught students for free if they could not afford to pay and also purchased supplies of candles (for when the power supply was down) and other basic necessities for the students to do their studies.

As noted previously, Min Min’s case is similar to that of U Aung Pe, who was also charged with holding illegal tuition after he put a t-shirt bearing a picture of democracy leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi where he was giving voluntary lessons for poor children (UP-029-2007; UP-030-2006; UP-132-2005; AHRC-PL-012-2006). Aung Pe was likewise sentenced to three years in jail and is still serving his sentence.

The case is also closely related to that of six other human rights defenders jailed recently, who were members of the same group: see the previous appeal (UP-105-2007) for all the latest details of that case. See also the AHRC’s open letter to the UN expert on human rights defenders issued today, August 1: AS-OL-025-2007.

For additional information on other similar cases and related issues, please see the previous appeal and updates, and the AHRC Burma homepage: http://burma.ahrchk.net. 



Please write to the attorney general and other concerned persons below calling for the cases against the victims of the attack to be closed, and for prosecution of all the alleged perpetrators. Please note that for the purpose of the letter, the country should be referred to by its official title of Myanmar, rather than Burma, and Rangoon as Yangon.

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


Dear ___________,

MYANMAR: Three years’ jail for human rights defender convicted of giving illegal tuition

Details of human rights defender: Ko Min Min (a.k.a. La Min Htun), 30, former tuition teacher, resident of Thayetdaw Ward, Pyay Town, Bago Division
Charged by: Pyay Town Police Station No. 2
Date of arrest: 10 July 2007, around 6pm
Charge: Illegal tuition under section 23, 1984 Tuition Law
Sentence: Three years’ imprisonment and 30,000 Kyat, Pyi Township Court, Judge U Khin Maung Win presiding, 30 July 2007

I am shocked to learn that a young man has been given three years’ imprisonment in Myanmar on the pretext that he had given illegal tuition to local students. The fact of a three year jail term for such a trivial alleged crime would be offensive enough: added to that is the fact that the motivation for his arrest, trial and imprisonment appears to be nothing more than that he held a discussion on human rights at his house.

According to the information that I have received, Ko Min Min, a member of the Human Rights Defenders and Promoters (HRDP) group, was arrested at the “Htoochunpankhin” tuition centre in Pyay town around 6pm on July 10 after he had held a discussion on human rights with around 20 local persons and a few from Yangon at his house on Bogyoke Rd in the town the night before. Some 100 copies of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights (UDHR) were reportedly also removed from the house. On July 11 he was charged with giving illegal tuition; however, he and witnesses testified that whereas he had previously obtained a permit from the local Township Education Office to give instruction at that location, when it expired he had gone to teach at the centre where was arrested, and had removed the board advertising tuition outside his house and packed away the related books. He was also reportedly making arrangements to go to work in Singapore, and for this reason had declined to renew his licence. Notwithstanding, the presiding judge has reportedly concluded that the evidence given in his defence was not “firm” enough and gave him the maximum possible penalty.

It is clear that Ko Min Min is among persons of the HRDP group and others, including Ko Myint Naing and his five co-defendants recently convicted to eight and four years’ imprisonment respectively in Henzada, who have been targetted due to their activities in promoting human rights. It must also be noted that the work that they have done has been strictly in accordance with the parts of the international human rights system to which the government of Myanmar has voluntarily subscribed, including the UDHR, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the Convention to Eliminate Discrimination against Women. It is thus absurd that they should suffer concocted legal cases as a consequence of informing people in Myanmar about laws to which they are entitled to be protected.

I therefore call upon the Attorney General of Myanmar to seek a review of this and other related cases, including that of another jailed tuition teacher, U Aung Pe, by the relevant township law offices to see that the accused are freed from imprisonment at the earliest possible time. I am aware that in Ko Min Min’s case he was an immensely popular teacher in his area and the authorities should consider that his imprisonment will do nothing but breed further ill will between the state and general public in Myanmar.

In closing, I note that it is particularly ironic that this human rights defender was being jailed at the very same time that the government of Myanmar was reluctantly agreeing to the setting up of a human rights mechanism under the new proposed charter of the Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean). I expect that if the nations of Asean are serious about this new human rights commission then among its first tasks will be to address the blatant persecution and imprisonment of human rights defenders in Myanmar as in cases such as this one, and the corresponding abuse and degradation of the legal system for the same purpose. The government of Myanmar should thus consider whether it should wait until the new Asean mechanism feels compelled to act against it, or whether it may not be advisable to address these matters itself without further delay.

Yours sincerely


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


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

2. Maj-Gen. Maung Oo
Minister for Home Affairs
Ministry of Home Affairs
Office No. 10
Tel: +95 67 412 040/ 069/ 072
Fax: +95 67 412 016/ 439
E-mail: ddg.gad@gad.gov.mm

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. Brig-Gen. Khin Yi
Director General 
Myanmar Police Force
Tel: + 95 1 549 196/ 228/ 209

5. U Aung Bwa
Director-General, ASEAN-Myanmar
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Tel: +951 229 214; 221 191
Fax: +951 222 950; 221 719
E-mail: dgaseanmofa@myanmar.com.mm

6. Mr. Patrick Vial
Head of Delegation
No. 2 (C) – 5 Dr. Ba Han Lane
Kaba Aye Pagoda Road, 8th Mile
Mayangone Township
Tel.: +951 662 613 / 664 524
Fax: +951 650 117
E-mail: yangon.yan@icrc.org

7. Professor Paulo Sergio Pinheiro
Special Rapporteur on Myanmar
Attn: Mr. Laurent Meillan
1211 Geneva 10
Tel: + 41 22 9179 281
E-mail: lmeillan@ohchr.org

8. Ms. Hina Jilani
Special Representative of the Secretary General on human rights defenders
Att: Melinda Ching Simon
Room 1-040
1211 Geneva 10
Tel: +41 22 917 93 88

9. Mr. Ong Keng Yong
Secretary General
ASEAN Secretariat
70A, Jalan Sisingamangaraja
Jakarta 12110
Tel: +62 21 7262991/ 7243372
Fax: +62 21 7398234/ 7243504
Email: public@aseansec.org; termsak@aseansec.org; amelia.b@aseansec.org

Thank you.

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

Document Type : Urgent Appeal Case
Document ID : UP-108-2007
Countries : Burma (Myanmar),
Issues : Human rights defenders, Judicial system, Rule of law, Threats and intimidation,