Leader of ultranationalist party charged for solo protest 

Michael Kyaw Myint, the general secretary of the ultranationalist Yeomanry Development Party (YDP), has been charged with protesting without official permission.

The charge of violating article 19 of the Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Law was laid against the YDP leader at the Kyauktada police station in Yangon. 

The charge relates to a solo protest he staged on Tuesday, when YDP central executive committee member Moe Moe Khaing was at the police station for a similar offense.

“He was holding up a vinyl sign. He protested and took photos on the Sule overpass, which he then posted on Facebook. That’s why we’re filing a case against him,” Po Tun, an officer at the station, told Myanmar Now. 

Moe Moe Khaing was charged under article 20 of the Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Law for leading a pro-military protest on December 28.

That protest had been authorized by police but exceeded the number of permitted protestors, which was limited to 29 due to Covid-19 restrictions. Around 400 people were believed to have taken part.

Moe Moe Khaing was released on bail, but Michael Kyaw Myint, who did not present himself at the police station to face charges, is now wanted by the police.

The YDP leader has faced multiple charges in the past related to his efforts to promote a far-right political agenda.

In October, he was charged with defamation while campaigning in Khin Oo township, Sagaing region. He has also served a one-year sentence for leading an anti-Muslim mob that harassed residents of Yangon’s South Dagon township in May 2019.

Moe Moe Khaing defended her party’s leader, saying that while it was true that he accompanied her to the police station, he did not protest there.

The photos, she said, were taken before he arrived at the station, where he had intended to ask for permission to protest.

“The photos posted on Facebook of him holding the sign are just a gesture of him standing together with me as a leader of a party,” she said.

She added that he did not make an appearance at the police station to face the charges because “he has something very important to do for the country and will face the case later.” 

No further details were provided.

At the December 28 protest, protestors carried signboards denouncing the Union Election Commission (UEC) for allegedly failing to protect the integrity of last year’s election. 

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

While the main charge against Moe Moe Khaing relates to the size of last month’s protest, she has also been accused by the UEC of defamation.

“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,” Khin Maung Win, the chair of the UEC’s western district branch, told Myanmar Now.

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