|In October 2017, Lashio District Court sentenced Dumdaw Nawng Lat, an assistant pastor with the Kachin Baptist Convention (KBC), to 51 months in prison and Langjaw Gam Seng, a KBC youth leader, to 27 months in prison for alleged affiliations with the Kachin Independence Army (KIA)—an ethnic armed group in active conflict with the Myanmar military. The court also convicted Dumdaw Nawng Lat with criminal defamation for providing information about the Myanmar military’s alleged airstrikes during a phone interview with Voice of America on December 1, 2016.
Fortify Rights called on President Win Myint to immediately free all remaining political prisoners as well as individuals who are arbitrarily detained.
Human rights defenders continue to face charges and arbitrary detention for their human rights work in Myanmar. For example, on June 13, 2017, Major Kyi Min Htun of Myanmar Army Light Infantry Division 101 filed a criminal defamation complaint against Dashi Naw Lawn—the General Secretary of the Kachin National Development Foundation—in the Hpakant Township Court, Kachin State. The military filed the complaint against Dashi Naw Lawn after approximately 25 youths from the Kachin National Development Foundation distributed pamphlets in Hpakant Township on June 9, 2017 alleging that the Myanmar military raped and killed Kachin women and destroyed villages and religious sites during the conflict in Kachin State. These and similar allegations are based on well-documented violations during the course of the war in Kachin State.
On November 20, 2017, Myanmar authorities rejected an appeal by Dashi Naw Lawn’s lawyers for charges to be dropped at the Mohnyin District Court. An appeal for the charges to be dropped is currently before the Kachin State High Court. Under Section 500 of the Myanmar Penal Code, Dashi Naw Lawn faces up to two years in prison and/or a fine if convicted.
Fighting between the Myanmar military and the KIA has intensified in recent weeks. On April 16, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported ongoing conflict in Tanai, Hpakant, Myitkyina, Momauk and Moegaung townships, and around Laiza—the headquarters of the KIA and home to an estimated 11,000 displaced persons. On April 11, the Joint Strategy Team—a coalition of Kachin civil society groups—reported that one civilian was killed by mortar shell and hundreds more displaced as a result of the conflict.