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Eight Arakanese youth were released from Mrauk U police station yesterday, after they were charged for using the union flag in a protest in January.
The eight youth were charged under the Union Flag Law and causing harm to public servants under the penal code. The protesters were facing trial in Mrauk U court.
“The court was charging the eight under section 16 of the union law”, Defense lawyer Tun Aung Kyaw explained to DVB when asked about the details of the Union Flag Law.
The eight were first charged under section 145 of the Penal Code for forming an unlawful assembly in January. They were then detained again in the evening of September 24, accused under section 16 of the Union Flag Law for using the flag in their protest.
However their sentence was reduced after they negotiated with authorities. Tun Aung Kyaw said they were then charged under section 332 of the penal code for causing harm to a public servant They were granted bail for section 332 charges after paying 500,000 kyat per person.
“Why didn’t they prosecute them under the Union Flag Law in the beginning? It is mistreating them badly if they are arrested again on the day they were to be released,” joint lawyer for the eight youth, Aye Nu Sein said.
On January 16, local Mrauk U residents protested the authorities’ ban on organisers wanting to hold a ceremony to mark the 233 anniversary of the fall of Rakhine Kingdom. It was scheduled to be held in Mrauk-U Township. In response to the ban a protest was held that suddenly turned bloody when police cracked down on protesters. Seven people died and dozens were injured.
At the protest in January speaking to DVB on the day of their demonstration, protester Khaing Thurein said, “yesterday, the authorities violently attacked civilians who were protesting peacefully. Several people were killed and injured. This was an abuse of power. We cannot accept incidents like this. We are staging this protest in an attempt to prevent this from recurring. The government must assume sole responsibility for the bloody crackdown.”