Myanmar environmental activist detained after criticizing military

Human rights groups are calling for the immediate release of an environmental activist detained in Rakhine State last week after criticizing the military.

Khaing Myo Htun, a longtime human rights defender and member of the Arakan Liberation Party, was accused of sedition and incitement after he accused the army of torturing civilians and forcing them into portering.

The ALP published the allegations in a report in April, citing video evidence. The following month, charges were filed against Khaing Myo Hyun under sections 505(b) and 505(c) of the colonial-era penal code. He was detained on July 25.

Myanmar’s military has been locked in conflict with the Arakan Army since April 2015. They have consistently denied using forced labor.

“The arbitrary detention of Khaing Myo Htun appears to be another attempt by the military to cover up abuse and silence human rights defenders,” said Matthew Smith, chief executive officer of Fortify Rights.

“This is the wrong approach. The authorities should immediately and unconditionally release Khaing Myo Htun, drop all charges against him, and work to end the cycle of impunity in Rakhine State.”

The activist is scheduled to appear in court on Friday.

“Khaing Myo Htun is well known for his outspoken criticism of the military and unscrupulous corporations operating in Rakhine State,” said his attorney, Oo Kyaw Thein from Earth Rights International, in a statement.

“It appears that he is being targeted as much for his advocacy on human rights and the environment as well as his political work. The charges against him have no grounding in the law.”

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