An anti-war activist jailed for three months in northern Myanmar’s Kachin state for insulting a judge already sentencing him on a separate charge was released on Monday after serving his full term, sources in Myanmar said.
Paul Lu, who was sentenced on Sept. 2, had handed the judge a broken scale to show his lack of faith in the court, and served his term following a 15-day sentence imposed for protesting the plight of ethnic Kachin displaced by fighting in the resource-rich state.
Also receiving a 15-day jail term on Sept. 2 for her role in the protest was a young Kachin woman named Seng Nupan.
An appeal to the Kachin state court to overturn the sentences imposed by the Mitkyina township court was rejected.
Speaking to RFA’s Myanmar Service following his release from the township prison, Lu—who had been charged under Article 228 of the country’s penal code for “intentionally insulting a judge”—said that he and Seng Nupan will continue to work to help Kachin civilians displaced by war and to reform the country’s justice system
“Myanmar is not ruled by a military dictatorship or a communist regime,” Lu said. “We are a democracy now, and in a democracy the right to freedom of expression should be guaranteed.”
“Kachin state, where we live, is unstable and ravaged by armed conflicts. The IDP [internally displaced persons] population grows larger every day, and our people want to be able to return to their homes,” he said.
Justice system in decline
Also speaking to RFA, Seng Nupan, who had earlier been freed after serving her 15-day sentence, said that Myanmar’s justice system is in decline.
“We don’t want the youth of this new generation to suffer from the effects of this system, and that’s why we will keep working to correct it,” she said. “We want to request the government to improve [the right to] freedom of expression.”
“As a democratic country, we should promote the freedom of expression more and more,” she added.
Kachin state has seen a resurgence in fighting between the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), an ethnic armed organization, and the Myanmar military since June 2011, following the breakdown of a 17-year cease-fire.
During the past eight years, the hostilities have displaced more than 100,000 civilians in Kachin state, the majority of whom live in displacement camps near Myitkyina and in neighboring Waingmaw township.
Meanwhile, Myanmar government and military officials have increasingly used vaguely worded laws to bring criminal charges against those who are publicly critical of their actions.
Reported by Elizabeth Jangma for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Ye Kaung Myint Maung. Written in English by Richard Finney.