Kachin Peace Activist’s Jail Term Extended After Myitkyina Courtroom Protest

Paw Lu, a prominent peace activist in the Kachin State capital Myitkyina, was given an additional three months added to his original sentence for his role in an “unauthorized” public peace performances after he was convicted of insulting the judge handling the case.

Paw Lu’s second conviction stemmed from a symbolic gesture he made following the conclusion of his court hearing on September 2nd when he handed the judge a broken set of judicial scales. An apparent protest of the dysfunction of Myanmar’s much-criticized justice system.

Paw Lu and his fellow activist Seng Nu Pan were both originally sentenced to fifteen-day stints in prison for their role in organizing a day of “unauthorized” public street theater which was staged to mark the 8th anniversary of the Kachin conflict in June.

The performance involved youth from internally displaced person camp’s in the Myitkyina area acting out scenes from the ongoing conflict between the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) and the Myanmar army, including army airstrikes over the Kachin hills. The Kachin conflict resumed in 2011, following the breakdown of a 16-year ceasefire between the KIO and the central government.

It appears Judge Than Tun was not amused by Paw Lu’s encore performance as he ruled the Kachin youth leader had violated Article 228 of the Penal Code for insulting a public servant during a judicial proceeding. During a hearing held to determine the matter on September 6th Judge Than Tun formally added the extra three months to Paw Lu’s original sentence.

“We were sentenced on September 2nd. The whole country knows that Burma’s justice system is wrong. I wanted other respective officials and our people to know this injustice. That’s why I gave him a set of broken scales,” Paw Lu told a group of journalists covering his latest court appearance

Lum Zawng, a trained lawyer who is a leading figure in the All Kachin Youth Union (AKYU) has raised concerns about the way the sentence was imposed. According to Lum Zawng under Article 228 a person should be given the option of paying a fine or going to prison but in this case, Paw Lu was not given a choice.

“Well, it’s unfair. Paw Lu already acknowledged his guilt. The Judge sentenced him to a prison term. In this case, Paw Lu should get a chance to choose whether he serves in prison or pays the fine. We often see unfair sentences. I think the executive has control over the justice system,” Lum Zawng told the Kachin News Group.

Paw Lu told the Kachin News Group that his sentence was unfair, a view shared by his lawyer Mar Hkar. “We already left the courtroom after the judge read the sentence. We were doing other things outside the courtroom. At that time Paw Lu entered the courtroom and talked to the judge. Actually the court hearing was already done. I saw that Paw Lu was talking with the judge but I didn’t see Paw Lu give a set of broken scales to the judge. They could not have charged him with this article because the court hearing process was already complete,” explained Mar Hkar.

Mar Hkar also said that Paw Lu was barred from meeting with his legal counsel before he was sentenced to the extra three months imprisonment, a violation of Paw Lu’s right to a fair trial and due process.

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