Prosecution of U Gambira worrying signal human rights in Myanmar
13 March 2016 10:42 pm
(Bangkok, 13 February) – The Mandalay’s Maha Aung Myay Township Court’s decision to formally charge and prosecute human rights defender U Gambira for an alleged immigration offence is extremely disappointing and another setback for the human rights situation in Myanmar.
The Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) reiterates its call to the Myanmar authorities to drop all charges against U Gambira and ensure his immediate and unconditional release.
U Gambira, who was charged seven weeks after his arrest, was denied bail again during a court hearing on 10 March despite his poor health. He was arrested on flimsy charges of ‘illegally entering’ Myanmar while returning from Thailand. He has been formally charged under Section 13(1) of the 1947 Immigration Act.
“By charging and prosecuting human rights defender U Gambira on flimsy charges, Myanmar authorities are sending out a worrying signal about their commitment to human rights during this key transition phase,” says Evelyn Balais-Serrano, Executive Director of FORUM-ASIA, “The authorities have already violated several of his rights by not informing him of the reasons for his arrest for a rather long period. They should end this sham and release him immediately.”
U Gambira’s legal counsel told the media that he will be challenging the charges. The next hearing is scheduled to take place on 18 March.
U Gambira was arrested in Mandalay on 19 January under bizarre circumstances. He had entered Myanmar four days earlier from Thailand and had passed through two immigration checks. U Gambira, who now lives in Thailand, had travelled to Myanmar to renew his passport. On 3 February, Gambira was produced in a Mandalay court. His counsel requested for immediate bail, due to his serious medical condition. A request that was denied.
U Gambira is a former leader of the All-Burma Monks’ Alliance who led the 2007 ‘Saffron revolution’. He was first arrested in November 2007 and sentenced to 68 years in prison. He was released through a presidential amnesty as part of larger political reforms in 2012. However, he was re-arrested at least three times in 2012 alone. U Gambira is believed to have suffered physically and psychologically due to alleged torture during his detention.
FORUM-ASIA is a regional human rights group with 58 member organisations in 19 countries across Asia. FORUM-ASIA addresses key areas of human rights violations in the region, including freedoms of expression, assembly and association, human rights defenders, and democratisation.