Myanmar: NGO worker and environmental HRD detained, charged on false accusationsEvent
- Initial Date
- Aug 7, 2020
- Event Description
The Observatory has been informed by the Myanmar Alliance for Transparency and Accountability (MATA) about the arbitrary detention of Mr. Gei Om, a member of MATA who works actively on environmental protection and conservation in Chin State. Mr. Gei Om is also a member of the Chin Aung Ta Man (a youth organisation of Chin people), the Chin Civil Society Network, and the Man Eain Working Committee (a community-based organisation).
According to the information received, on July 24, 2020, Mr. Gei Om was taken into custody after a local official in Ohn Village Tract sent a letter of complaint to authorities in Mindat Township, Chin State, on July 13, 2020. The complaint alleged that Mr. Gei Om had spread false news about possible illicit activities throughout Chin villages, was involved in an illegal land dispute settlement in 2016, and had been collecting taxes from villages.
Prior to his arrest, Mr. Gei Om helped local community leaders to monitor the impact of a project of model farms to harvest oil seed plants designed by the Management Committee of Mindat Township. They found out that the local government in charge of the model farms had engaged in illegal logging and that the farms had caused environmental damage to the Natma Taung National Park. On June 1, 2020, they had sent a previous complaint to the Environmental Conservation Department (ECD) of the Ministry of Natural Resource and Environmental Conservation (MONREC), which ordered the Forest Department in Mindat Township to carry out an investigation into the matter. During a meeting with Forest Department officials and two representatives of local communities, Mr. Gei Om, who acted as a negotiator and translator from Chin to Burmese and vice versa, advised the community leaders not to sign documents, which asserted that an investigation was carried out and no wrongdoing had been found. The above-mentioned July 13 complaint letter of the Ohn Village Tract official against Mr. Gei Om was sent to the Mindat Township authorities following this meeting, and led to his arrest.
On August 7, 2020, the Deputy Police Chief charged Mr. Gei Om under Section 5 (1) (F) (G) of the Restriction of Movement and Probation of Habitual Offenders Act of 1961 for his participation in the settlement of a land dispute in 2016. The fabricated charge stemmed from his participation as a community negotiator in the resolution of a land dispute under a customary dispute resolution mechanism after the destruction of a village by a landslide in 2015. At the time, the government authorities had authorized the land dispute to be settled according to local customs but they subsequently claimed that the dispute was not settled legally and that Mr. Gei Om should therefore be charged for his involvement in it, which the authorities claimed it amounted to inciting conflict.
After charges were pressed, Mr. Gei Om was offered a conditional release provided that he would not leave Mindat Township and he would report on a bi-monthly basis to the police for six months to one year, which he refused. If found guilty, Mr. Gei Om will be prohibited from leaving his township and, if he does not comply with this measure of restriction, he could be sentenced to one year in prison. He is currently detained in Mindat Township.
The Observatory expresses its utmost concern over the arbitrary detention and judicial harassment of Mr. Gei Om, which seem to be only aimed at punishing him for his legitimate human rights work.
- Impact of Event
- Gender of HRD
- (Arbitrary) Arrest and Detention
- Denial Fair Trial
- Judicial Harassment
- Rights Concerned
- Right to fair trial
- Right to healthy and safe environment
- Right to liberty and security
- Environmental rights defender
- NGO staff
- Monitoring Status
- Event Location
- Summary for Publications
On 7 August 2020, Gei Om, NGO worker and environmental HRD, was charged after being detained by the police on false accusations due to his investigative and advocacy work in defence of the environment and local population in Mindat Township, Myanmar.