Two Muslim interfaith activists have been arrested in Mandalay under what their colleagues fear are politically motivated charges.
Ko Zaw Zaw Latt (second from left) poses with the KIA in 2013. Photo: Supplied
Ko Zaw Zaw Latt, a member of the Mandalay Interfaith Social Volunteer Youth Group, was in a cafe in Chan Aye Thar San township on July 14 when he was taken into police custody without an arrest warrant, according to the Burma Muslim Association.
The Mandalay Region Police Force Office attributed the arrest to two-year-old pictures Ko Zaw Zaw Latt had posted on Facebook of himself holding a rifle and meeting with members of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) in Laiza. The day after he was arrested he was charged with unlawful association with a blacklisted organisation under Article 17 of the Unlawful Association Act.
Ko Zaw Zaw Latt was a member of the opposition National League for Democracy and an interfaith organisation called Thint Myat Lo Thu Myar (Peace Seekers), which was founded by a monk following the outbreak of anti-Muslim violence in Meiktila in 2013, according to the Burma Muslim Association.
"The arrest is related to Zaw Zaw Latt's involvement in a peaceful march to Kachin State in 2013. During the visit to Kachin State he took pictures with the member of Kachin armed group and posted on his Facebook account," the association said on July 17. "He is only now having action taken against him because recently members of Ma Ba Tha have been targeting him and spreading rumours that he has connections with armed groups. This shows that authorities in Burma react swiftly whenever the extremist groups demand and pressure them."
Another member of the same Mandalay-based interfaith youth group, Ma Pwint Phyu Latt, was brought into the police station for questioning on July 17. She was held overnight and released the following day. But on July 19 police paid her another visit and arrested her, according to her mother Daw Yi Yi Mya. "She was charged under Article 13 of the Immigration Act. Police said she was seen in a photo of seven people including Zaw Zaw Latt taken in India as a part of their Chin State trip," Daw Yi Yi Mya said.
Mandalay's Criminal Investigations Department said it had "dealt" with these cases already, but would not elaborate further.
"We can't say anything at the present, but there's a list for further arrests. Already some [on the list] have fled," said Police Lieutenant Colonel Sein Tun, chief of the Mandalay District Police Force.
Additional reporting by Laignee Barron