According to Shan State’s top judge, 14 people in the northern part of the state have been charged with violating the controversial colonial-era law.
A total of 14 people living in northern Shan State have been charged under Section 17/1 of Burma’s controversial colonial-era Unlawful Associations Act, according to the state’s top judge.
Shan State Chief Justice Kywe Kywe told legislators at the 15th regular session of the state parliament on Monday that the state’s courts are currently prosecuting 11 cases against a total of 14 defendants accused of associating with groups deemed illegal by the government.
Justice Kywe Kywe was responding to a question from Sai Tun Nyan, the representative for Kyaukme constituency, who wanted to know how many people had been charged under the law in northern Shan State.
Of the 14 defendants, he said that three were from Muse Township, five from Lashio, and eight from Kyaukme. He added that nobody has been charged under the law in the Palaung or Kokang self-administered zones.
Northern Shan State has numerous ethnic armed organizations, some of which have been outlawed by the Burmese government. In many areas, it is impossible for civilians to avoid contact with these groups, raising concerns about how the law is applied.
MP Sai Tun Nyan said he was worried that people are being charged under the Unlawful Associations Act at a time when ethnic people are striving towards peace in the country under the banner of a genuine federal union.
In one recent case that has attracted the attention of critics who say the law is applied indiscriminately, Sai Tin Cho, the village headman of Nam Hu Tawng village-tract in Kyaukme Township, was arrested and charged under the law by the Burma Army on April 26. He was accused of working with two rival armed groups—the Shan State Progressive Party and the Restoration Council of Shan State—to collect taxes for both armies.