How has U Kyaw Hla Aung faced Human Rights violation, unfair treatment and long time imprisonment throughout his life?
How U Kyaw Hla Aung has faced throughout his life ?
U Kyaw Hla Aung served as a clerk in Sittway district civil court and Section judge court since 1961. In 1965, he became a stenographer. On September 7, 1983, he was retired from the services and became a lawyer in 1984. In 1986, he wrote an appeal letter in line with Burma's land seizing law, when the land of a group of farmers was seized during 1986. In this regard, the state council of Rakhine was not satisfied with his attempt to defend the rights of the land owners. He was arrested under emergency act 5 (Nya) on 25th August 1986.
When he was arrested at the first time, he had to stay together with Pa Thein Sayadaw, (Buddhist monk) in a cell. Pa Thein Sayadaw (Buddhist monk) called some Rakhine Buddhist prisoners in Sittway prison and asked them to fulfill the needs of U Kyaw Hla Aung and some Rakhine prisoners took care of him.
During 1988 unrest, there was demonstration inside Sittway prison on 25th August. A part of the wall of the prison was destroyed by some prisoners and the authorities shot at few of the prisoners. At the time, U Kyaw Hla Aung was in a private cell. In the evening, some students and town leaders requested the authorities to release the prisoners. The authorities had to release all prisoners during the night.
U Kyaw Hla Aung and U Ba Thein Khin (a Rakhine Buddhist from Kan Taung Gyi) came to the house of U Kyaw Hla Aung in Pa Loke Taung Quarter (now Yee Nwe Su Quarter) at about mid night. In fact, some student leaders sent them to home safely. After 1988 unrest, when the courts were running properly, the case of U Kyaw Hla Aung appeared again. He explained the situation to the state judge, U Kyaw Thar and agreed to face the case. The judge allowed defending on bail.
In 1989, he and his colleagues established National Democratic Party for Human Rights in the hope of achieving equal rights of the Muslims in Rakhine state (Arakan). In 1990 election, he stood for Member of Parliament from electorate (1), Sittway, Rakhine state. He was also vice-president of that party. Before the election, their party campaigned strongly for vote. When they were campaigning, he was again arrested on 10th April 1990 for the same case left before under emergency act 5 (Nya) and added two more cases: a case was under the penal code 224 and another case was under the penal code 6 (1).
Therefore, the emergency case 5 (Nya) from the state court was taken to the military court (No. 36/Na Pa-Sa Ka/90) and he was sentenced to 14 years in prison on 21st May 1990. The rest two charges were transferred to Sittway state court.
After he was jailed, some Rakhine Buddhist leaders and Muslim leaders got imprisonment as 5, 7 and 10 years respectively. Some Rakhine Buddhist political leaders urged U Kyaw Hla Aung to tell the Muslims to vote Rakhine party. He had to urge his party (NDPHR) to consider about that, but finally the Muslim population voted Kaman Muslims party by the majority's decision of NDPHR party. A Kaman lawyer, U Shwe Ya of Kaman Muslims party won in the 1990 election at electorate No. 1 of Sittway.
The rest two charges on U Kyaw Hla Aung under the penal code 224 and 6 (1) were delayed in the court transferring from the military court to state court and again from state court to township court. Finally the case number 1708/92 under the penal code 224 and the case number 1709/92 under the penal code 6 (1) were proceeded at the township court. He got six months imprisonment with work respectively on 30th November 1992 and the judge made final decision on the cases of U Kyaw Hla Aung that he would spend six months in prison for both cases together.
At the time, he was in the cell in Sittway prison after his first imprisonment under the act 5 (Nya) and he did not get any opportunity to appeal for the other two cases. And he did not get opportunity to meet his family members and the lawyer either. After he stayed in a private cell over four years, he was allowed by prison authorities to stay at a private room in prison hospital.
In 1994, when National Convention was started, the former military regime declared amnesty in order to reduce some prisoners' imprisonments which were above 10 years to 10 years. U Kyaw Hla Aung's 14 years imprisonment under emergency act 5 (Nya) was reduced to 10 years. It means that his first imprisonment 14 years became 10 years imprisonment and the rest six months imprisonment remained for the other two cases.
The prison authorities requested him to help write the appeals of the other prisoners and he helped write the appeals. Some prisoners were released and some prisoners' imprisonments were reduced by Supreme Court. U Kyaw Hla Aung was released on 28th August, 1997. He has worked at the office of Medicine Sans Frontier (MSF) as an administrator since 1998.
On 10th June 2012, some of Rakhine extremists posted a rumor on the website, Freedom News Group. It was said that the police got 2 boxes of weapons at his house in front of Law Kha Nan Dar pagoda (Yee Nwe Su Quarter), and he was arrested. When one of his sons got that rumor, he made phone call to his family. His family members said U Kyaw Hla Aung was sleeping at home at about 10:00 pm (Myanmar time). The rumor was posted at about 09:45 pm (Myanmar time) on the same day. Finally, they knew that Rakhine nationalists had pre-planned to attack the Muslims' villages in Sittway. MSF also tried to prevent the rumor next day, but could not do that.
The next afternoon, on 11th June 2012, more than 500 Rakhine nationalists came and destroyed U Kyaw Hla Aung's house. Their family moved to the mosque beside their garden and the villagers also moved there. U Kyaw Hla Aung was arrested at the same time and the extremists destroyed all the houses in that village.
All the villagers were protected by the police and military. The security forces helped them to stay in the remaining two houses and in the mosque for a night. The next afternoon, 400-500 Rakhine nationalists surrounded the village (Yee Ngwe Su Quarter) again and some of them wanted to kill Muslim young men but the security forces prevented from killing the people and arranged to move the Muslims to Muslim populated area by the military trucks. In fact, they were moved to Muslim populated area, Thae Chaung village.
U Kyaw Hla Aung could not know any things about the rest family members and the villagers whether they were protected or killed. Fortunately, they were protected by the security forces. He was charged under the penal code 505 (B). The authorities mentioned that they got the letter that could prove he had connection with Al Qai dar.
Actually, they could not get anything illegal in the houses in that village. On the website, it mentioned "2 boxes of weapons were found" but later the authorities mentioned that they got the letter related to Al Quai dar. The accusation and rumor were very different.
In reality, their family members cannot even spell the term Al Qai Dar because they are not familiar with such names. And their family members use Arakanese Muslim's language, Rakhine language, as well as Burmese, and some can speak English.
In actual fact, U Kyaw Hla Aung was the one who firstly condemned terrorism after September 11 attack on World Trade Center in USA. He did campaign against the religious extremism and prevented the Muslims from supporting Islamic extremists. He tended to mention "Rakhine Buddhists and Burman Buddhists as well as Christians were created by God/Allah who created us in the same way. It is not acceptable to discriminate against Non-Muslims."
When international community pressurized, by different ways, Myanmar government and Rakhine state government, the President Thein Sein asked the authorities to send detail of his case and his biography. President Thein Sein read all details and commanded the Rakhine government to release those who were related to MSF (Holland) and NGOs. He was released on 16th August 2012. It means that there were no charges on him and the evidences which could prove the rumor, and accusation.
U Kyaw Hla Aung was retired from his job of MSF local office after he was released in August 2012 because of his old age and different pressure from different sides on MSF. In fact, their family members could not even work with any organizations for their survival because Rakhine extremists and the authorities put pressure not to accept their family members for any job.
When Mr. Derek Mitchell, Ambassador of United States Embassy in Yangon went to Sittway, they met with U Kyaw Hla Aung. He mentioned "the term Bengali was used after Bangladesh got independence. When Bangladesh was East Pakistan, the government of Burma used the Arakanese Muslims." When he mentioned this, Rakhine state's minister heard the interpretation. He was not satisfied with U Kyaw Hla Aung's explanations about the Arakanese history.
Another case is that, many INGOs and NGOs including diplomats met with U Kyaw Hla Aung regarding Arakan violence in order to get real information. The Rakhine state's government does not want him to tell the truth about human rights violation and the history of Arakanese Muslims to the foreigners. He also developed 14 schools for IDPs in Sittway between September 2012 and June 2013 in order to facilitate the education of the Muslims. He was the head of the committee.
On 26th April 2013, the Muslims were forced to accept the term Bengali when the immigration and the police tried to do population census. Some children demonstrated reciting the term "Rohingya" and some children threw the stones to the police. This happened in another village, but not near the house U Kyaw Hla Aung's family temporary stays. And the authorities stopped to collect family lists, census. They also arrested few Muslim community leaders. Some of them are not released yet.
On the same day in Boduba IDP camps, when the police created the problem with the Muslims, a group of Muslims attacked the police. A police man ran into a house. The house owner is the son of U Kyaw Hla Aung's friend who calls him "Uncle". That police was taken by the security forces after the house owner informed about tension to the authorities. A group of IDPs Muslims tried to set fire his house because of misunderstanding on each other. Another man who is very close to U Kyaw Hla Aung, as his cousin, requested to prevent the group IDPs from burning that house down. U Kyaw Hla Aung was sleeping at temporary house at the time. As soon as he received information, he made phone call to the heads of Muslim IDPs, and prevented the Muslims from burning that house down.
The authorities suspected that he is the only one who urged the people not to accept the term "Bengali". Since then, the authorities have been threatening him. The police came to arrest him many times by different ways, but he did not meet them. During Ramdan month of Islam, he was taking a rest at the temporary house. On 15th July 2013 between 11:30 am, and 12 noon, a police officer and two men without uniform (may be Special Branch police) came by a car and they asked him to go together with them.
They gave the reason; they have to ask some questions. The police said that "we will ask some questions only and bring him back."
Some INGOs such as Amnesty International, The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders & International Federation for Human Rights, Front Line Defenders issued Urgent Action, Urgent Appeal, and condemned arbitrary arrest of U Kyaw Hla Aung.
U Kyaw Hla Aung has been on trial under the acts 148, 150, and 333. Rakhine state government again added more penal codes on him. According to reliable information, he has been facing many allegations under the penal codes 148, 150, 332, 333, 395, 505 (B), and 109.
On 30th December 2013, the President of Myanmar declared his pardon on some cases of the prisoners. The act 505 (B) was dropped and the rests were remained but transferred to Supreme Court in Nay Pyi Daw. On 8th January 2014, Supreme Court in Nay Pyi Daw decided to transfer all the cases to Sittway district court again.
U Kyaw Hla Aung told to his family members that all the allegations were automatically dropped because there are no witnesses from the government side and the penal code 147 was added again. He did not tell clearly how many penal codes remained and were added by Sittway district court. He was worrying for his family members and told them there were no penal codes. In fact, he did not want his family members to hear worrisome news of himself he mentioned. That is why; he did not tell the truth of his trial.
On 24th June, three Muslim community leaders were released. Two of them (U Kyaw Khin and U San Lin) were sentenced to one year imprisonment but they had to stay in custody for a year before imprisonment. They two were released and another one (U Ba Thar) was released as no guilt was found.
U Kyaw Hla Aung, U Kyaw Myint and Hla Myint (the son of U Kyaw Myint) have been on trial at the court under the penal codes 148, 150, 332, 333, 395 and 109.
They three appeared at the court many times within few months. The local authorities directly intervened in judicial system in Rakhine state district court since they were arrested. It is believed that systemic planning for the arrest of U Kyaw Hla Aung was implemented by the extremists and Rakhine state authorities. It can be seen clearly there is no independence of judiciary and no rule of law in Rakhine state (Arakan).
The local authorities tried to force some Burman immigration and a soldier to be the witnesses from the government side. The Burman immigration never came back to appear at the court. Only one Burman soldier appeared at the court and stated fairly about the incident happened in April 2013. He did not say anything against U Kyaw Hla Aung.
A Kaman Muslim police was threatened and forced to be witness from government side. Even though the police tried very hard to force him to be witness against U Kyaw Hla Aung, his statement was wrong and it was rejected.
The court allowed the witnesses for the defense U Kyaw Hla Aung, U Kyaw Myint and Hla Myint to appear at the court. But the local police prevented the witnesses from going to Sittway district court for few weeks. In fact, the Muslims need security police in order to go to downtown Sittway because the Muslims and Rakhine Buddhists have been separated since June 2012 after the violence. Without security, the Muslims cannot go to downtown. Some Muslims witnesses from their sides tried to go to the court but district police officer urged the police not to provide security for the witnesses.
The court framed the charges 148, 150, 333 and 109. From the government side, they cannot find the witnesses except a Kaman Muslim police who was forced by non-Muslims police. The court reserved the other penal code 395.
They three appeared on 22nd, 23rd, and 24th September. On 22nd September, the witnesses were not provided security to go to the court. On 23rd September, they were provided security but the witnesses from U Kyaw Hla Aung's side are not allowed to go. On 24th September, the security was not given for them and the witnesses could not go to the court. They appeared at the court on 25th and the witness could go after giving pressure upon the police from different sides.
On 26th September, they were sentenced to one and half years (1 year and 6 months) imprisonment under the charges 148 and 150. The rest charges were dropped.
Written by: Son of U Kyaw Hla Aung
On 14th September 2013
Edited on 27th September 2014
# U Kyaw Hla Aung is now at the age 75.