Leader of pro-military demonstration charged with illegal assembly

Moe Moe Khaing, a senior member of the pro-military Yeomanry Development Party (YDP), was charged on Monday with organizing an illegal protest late last month.

She was charged under article 20 of the Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Law. The case will be heard by the Western District Court. Bail was set at 300,000 kyat ($225).

The charges were laid at the Kyauktada township police station in Yangon by Win Naing, an officer at the western district branch of the Union Election Commission (UEC).

Speaking to reporters at the police station, Moe Moe Khaing said she didn’t know when the first hearing in the case would be held.

The YDP, which is led by ultranationalist Michael Kyaw Myint, organized the December 28 protest to advance unproven claims that the UEC rigged the election in favour of the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD).

During the protest, which was also in support of the “patriotic army,” Moe Moe Khaing gave a speech saying that the UEC’s alleged electoral fraud would soon be exposed to the world.

Protestors carried signs accusing the UEC of treachery and said they backed the military because it bore responsibility for protecting the 2008 constitution.

“Anyone who ruins our country’s reputation by stealing votes is our enemy,” read one protest sign.

In her speech, Moe Moe Khaing said the protest was necessary because the authorities had failed to take claims of electoral irregularities seriously.

“It is way past time that they resolved all these issues,” she said. “Since they haven’t, we have gathered here. It is especially important now to protect the Constitution.”

Although the protest was approved by Kyauktada police, the organizers were only authorized to allow 29 people to attend due to Covid-19 restrictions. However, around 400 showed up on the day.

Khin Maung WIn, the chair of the UEC’s western district branch, said that the charges would also address defamation of the commission by the protestors.

“They can say they don’t accept the election. That’s their problem. But when they say the commission committed electoral fraud, it’s an insult to the UEC. So that’s why we’re filing this lawsuit,” he told Myanmar Now.

Article 20 of the Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Law is used against those who violate rules that must be followed by protestors.

This includes article 10(e) of the law, which states that protestors must not share inaccurate information.

If found guilty, Moe Moe Khaing face a maximum of one month in prison, a fine of 10,000 kyat, or both.

However, according to Khing Maung Aye, further charges may be added, pending legal advice.

“We’re thinking of filing a civil suit, too. But at the moment, it’s just that charge. We’ll just proceed legally. And we’re doing what we should do,” he said.

YDP leader Michael Kyaw Myint received a one-year prison sentence under section 500(b) of the penal code for leading an anti-Muslim march in May 2019.

He was also among the leaders of 34 parties that met with Tatmadaw Commander-in-chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing in August, ahead of the November 8 election.

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