Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Sagaing labour protesters punished for civil disobedience

Sagaing workers, facing trial for their protest march to the capital, will be sentenced to a month in prison or a K5000 fine after being held in contempt of court yesterday. The workers irritated court staffers by refusing to take the proceedings seriously and instead staging civil disobedience by yelling out and singing during four straight hearings.

Protesters from Sagaing Region arrive at Tatkone Township Court for the fourth hearing yesterday. Photo: Pyae Thet Phyo / The Myanmar TimesProtesters from Sagaing Region arrive at Tatkone Township Court for the fourth hearing yesterday. Photo: Pyae Thet Phyo / The Myanmar Times

The workers have also pledged to stage a hunger strike if parliamentarians do not intervene in the case by the middle of the month.

On May 18, the workers were forcefully arrested by Nay Pyi Taw police between Tatkon township and Yamethin township while protesting for better conditions at the Myanmar Veneer plywood factory in Sagaing Region.

At yesterday’s hearing, after yelling and singing for the fourth time, they were found in violation of section 480 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, which relates to contempt of court.

“They were yelling out slogans in the court,” Tatkon township Judge U Aung Kyaw Oo said. “We told them not to make noises in the court because the legal officer and prosecution police had arrived. We warned them three times. But they did not stop it and kept on disturbing the process of the court by influencing the judge with their sounds. It reached the fourth court hearing but the case could not be put on trial so the dignity of the court is lost.”

“The punishment is very lenient,” he added.

They will be punished again if they keep disturbing the court process at their next hearings, he said. A sentence in the case is expected on June 15, he said.

“Since the first time they were sent to court, they were yelling out slogans and singing their songs,” said Police Colonel Ko Ko Aung, head of Nay Pyi Taw district polices. “So far, their case cannot be put on trial.”

Ko Yan Naing Tun from the Progress Labour Union, who has been detained, said he had no comment on the court’s decision.

“Today, while we kept on boycotting the court, the court sentenced us for disobedience,” he said. “But, I have nothing to say about the order of the court. It is doing its duty.”

However, he went on to express his dissatisfaction with the trial.

“As we have been wrongly arrested, we don’t need to face trial,” he said. “The court is under the influence of the Ministry of Home Affairs. We’ve seen that the judge can’t decide the case on his own. Police are positioned in the courtroom so that they can give the judgement against us. There won’t be truth and justice under a judiciary system controlled by the executive sector.”

Ko Khaing Min, leader of the worker protesters, said they will wage hunger strikes aimed at MPs, asking that parliament amend labour laws.

“Force was used against us when we were arrested,” he said. “To settle that case, we will give MPs 10 days from today. We have decided that we will wage a hunger strike on the 11th day if they don’t do anything for us.”


Translation by Thiri Min Htun