Global Freedom of Expression

Español العربية

The Case of Naw Ohn Hla (Praying at the Shwedagon Pagoda)

Closed Contracts Expression

Key Details

  • Mode of Expression
    Public Speech
  • Date of Decision
    June 20, 2015
  • Outcome
    Official Court Documents Unavailable, Imprisonment
  • Region & Country
    Myanmar, Asia and Asia Pacific
  • Judicial Body
    First Instance Court
  • Type of Law
    Criminal Law
  • Themes
    Freedom of Association and Assembly / Protests

Content Attribution Policy

Global Freedom of Expression is an academic initiative and therefore, we encourage you to share and republish excerpts of our content so long as they are not used for commercial purposes and you respect the following policy:

  • Attribute Columbia Global Freedom of Expression as the source.
  • Link to the original URL of the specific case analysis, publication, update, blog or landing page of the down loadable content you are referencing.

Attribution, copyright, and license information for media used by Global Freedom of Expression is available on our Credits page.

Case Analysis

Case Summary and Outcome

Naw Ohn Hla was sentenced to four months in prison with hard labor on June 20, 2015 under the Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Law after being accused of causing a religious disturbance as she held prayers at Shwedagon Pagoda to support the opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi in 2007. She was released from the Insein Prison in Yangon on April 17, 2016 due to Presidential amnesty.

Columbia Global Freedom of Expression could not identify the official legal and government records on the case and that the information contained in this report was derived from secondary sources. It must be noted that media outlets may not provide complete information about this case. Additional information regarding this legal matter will be updated as an official source becomes available.


Facts

In 2007, Naw Ohn Hla went to Shwedagon Pagoda in Ragoon and led a prayer service for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi, who was under house arrest at that time by the former military regime.

She told the local newspaper that the pagoda security pulled the members out of the compound in the middle of the prayer. Charges were later filed against her. The governing body of the Shwedagon accused her of causing a religious disturbance, a crime under Article 296 of the Penal Code that carries a maximum sentence of one year in prison. She also faced additional charges in three other districts under the same law.

The case was filed by the Shwedagon Pagoda Board of Trustees member, U Mang Maung Tint. According to her lawyer, Robert San Aung, the judge brought up the case because authorities could not catch the woman. Naw Ohn Hla has actually been imprisoned for more than seven times since 1989 for her peaceful efforts in human rights and political activities. Her lawyer said that the authorities seem to pile up the cases against her in order to silent the activist.

Naw Ohn Hla had been imprisoned at the notorious Insein Prison for the peaceful protest at the Chinese Embassy in Rangoon which took place in December 2014 serving a four years and four month sentence before this ruling was delivered. She was held at the Insein Prison in Rangoon before being granted Presidential amnesty and released on April 17, 2016.

 


Decision Overview

While there is no official court document from which to generate a decision overview, the law under which these charges stem has been controversial over the past couple of years.

The Peaceful Assembly Law has been criticized by Human Rights Watch and other human rights groups. They have argued that Article 19 poses a threat to the rights to freedom of assembly because one must ask for permission from the Burmese authorities to have a protest even though it is peaceful. Those who violate the law will face a possible jail term of one year maximum or a maximum of thirty thousand kyat fine or both as described in the Article 18 of the law.


Decision Direction

Quick Info

Decision Direction indicates whether the decision expands or contracts expression based on an analysis of the case.

Contracts Expression

The ruling contracts expression because Naw Ohn Hla should not be charged and imprisoned since the peaceful prayer she conducted at the temple. Her action should not be considered as a criminal offence.

Furthermore, the decision does not carry justice and is apparently political-motivated. Naw Ohn Hlashould not be charged since her actions took place at a peaceful prayer service. It is also peculiar that she was sentenced in 2015 when the action actually happened in 2007. Since she has been active in political and human rights activities, she has become a target of those who would like to silence her.

The Peaceful Assembly Law has been criticized by the rights group such as Human Rights Watch and Article 19 that it poses a threat to the rights to freedom of assembly because one must ask for a permission from the Burmese authorities to have a protest even though it is peaceful. Those who violate the law will face a possible jail term of one year maximum or a maximum of thirty thousand kyat fine or both as described in the Article 18 of the law.

Global Perspective

Quick Info

Global Perspective demonstrates how the court’s decision was influenced by standards from one or many regions.

Table of Authorities

National standards, law or jurisprudence

  • Myan., Article 18 of the Peaceful Assembly Law

Case Significance

Quick Info

Case significance refers to how influential the case is and how its significance changes over time.

This case did not set a binding or persuasive precedent either within or outside its jurisdiction. The significance of this case is undetermined at this point in time.

Official Case Documents

Reports, Analysis, and News Articles:


Have comments?

Let us know if you notice errors or if the case analysis needs revision.

Send Feedback