Five leaders of the People Democracy Party (PDP) have been detained by authorities in Kachin State since late October on charges of incitement and defaming Kachin State Chief Minister La John Ngan Hsai, after he was accused of corruption, PDP Secretary Aung Myint said on Thursday.
On Oct. 24, police arrested PDP Chairman Dr. Than Htike Oo, Vice-Chairman Hein Htet Aung and Tanai Township Organizer Nan Kham Htwe, and brought them to Tanai Township Court, Aung Myint said. PDP Executive Committee member Win Naing and party organizer Kyemon were detained in the Kachin State capital Myitkyina on the same day and brought to Myitkyina Township Court.
“The [Kachin] State government accused them of publishing defamatory articles in our [PDP] publication,” Aung Myint said, adding that the prosecutor charged them for defamation under Section 500 and incitement under Section 505(c) of the Burmese Penal Code which can both carry a penalty of up to two years imprisonment.
Nan Kham Htwe has since been released on bail for health reason, Aung Myint added.
He said the Kachin State authorities had sought to prosecute PDP leaders after the party’s monthly bulletin, published in Mandalay, accused the state’s Chief Minister La John Ngan Hsai and his officials of demanding bribes from local motor transport and motorboat businesses, and from organizers of the traditional Kachin festival of Manaw.
Aung Myint said the PDP leaders were being “arbitrarily detained” and that charges against them were baseless, adding that the four leaders should be released on bail as soon as possible and the case dropped.
The PDP recently wrote to President Thein Sein, the speakers of the Upper and Lower Houses and Aung San Suu Kyi, the chairperson of the parliamentary Rule of Law Committee, to request that they investigate the case, he added.
The PDP is a small party that was first registered at the Election Commission in August 2011 and contested last April’s by-election for three seats in Mandalay Division, but failed to win any of these.
La John Ngan Hsai is a member of the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party and was elected as chief minister after he won a seat for a Tanai Township constituency in the widely-condemned 2010 elections.
Neither he nor his officials could be reached by The Irrawaddy for comment at the time of publication.