Mr. Hla Myint,
Chairman of the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission
I am William Nicholas Gomes, Human Rights activist and Freelance Journalist.
According to the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, they have been informed by reliable sources about the judicial harassment against Mr. Tha Phoe, a Karen environmental activist, the Campaign Coordinator of the Karen Environmental and Social Action Network (KESAN)1 and alternate Steering Committee member for Karen State Myanmar Alliance for Transparency and Accountability (MATA)2.
According to the information received, on the night of March 6, 2020, police from Myaingkalay and Hpa-an police stations in Karen State issued an arrest warrant against Mr. Tha Phoe and went to his home to arrest him. As Mr. Tha Phoe was not at home at that time, the police searched the premises and questioned his relatives.
The arrest warrant issued against Mr. Tha Phoe stemmed from a complaint filed against him by the Hpa-an General Administration Department to the Hpa-an Township Court on March 6, 2020, under Section 505(b) of the Criminal Code (‘disturbing public tranquillity’). He faces up to two years in prison.
The complaint is related to Mr. Tha Phoe’s participation in a traditional prayer ceremony, which took place on January 17, 2020, in Nat Kone Village, Hpa-an Township, Karen State. During this ceremony, which was conducted by local residents and village monks from Hpa-an Township, and based on Karen religious traditions, participants prayed to avoid risks associated with water pollution affecting approximately 30 villages near a coal-powered cement factory. At the time of the publication of this Urgent Appeal, police continue to look for Mr. Tha Phoe’s whereabouts.
I am concern about the judicial harassment against Mr. Tha Phoe, which seems to be only aimed at punishing him for the exercise of his legitimate and peaceful human rights activities.
i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical integrity and psychological well-being of Mr. Tha Phoe and of all human rights defenders in Myanmar;
ii. Put an end to all acts of harassment – including at the judicial level – and intimidation against Mr. Tha Phoe and all human rights defenders in Myanmar, and ensure in all circumstances that they can carry out their activities without hindrance and fear of reprisals;
iii. Comply with all the provisions of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on December 9, 1998, in particular with its Articles 1 and 12.2;
iv. Ensure in all circumstances, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards.
I hope that you will pay serious consideration to the concerns expressed in this letter.
William Nicholas Gomes,
Human Rights Activist and Freelance Journalist
York, United Kingdom