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Burmese police arrest Kachin activist Bawk Ja

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by Kachin News Group

Bawk Ja (also spelt Bauk Gyar and Bauk Ja), a well-known Kachin land rights activist was arrested Thursday night, in southern Kachin state according to a family friend.

Representatives from the Kachin Legal Aid group confirmed Bawk Ja's arrest but do not know what she has been charged with.

[B]“At the moment, we can confirm she was arrested in Mohnyin.  We are still trying to find out about her,” a lawyer from the organization told the Kachin News Group.[/B]

Her arrest may have to do with politics, says Daw Hkawn Ja, general secretary of Kachin Peace Network whose group is very concerned about Bawk Ja's fate.

Bawk Ja, who serves as the Kachin State chairperson for the National Democratic Force, first rose to national prominence four years ago, as a leading member of a group of 150 farming families who sued the Yuzana corporation and its chairman Htay Myint (now an MP from the ruling USDP) for expropriating their land in the fertile Hugawng Valley (also spelled Hukawng or Hukaung).

Ultimately court action against Yuzana failed.  Bawk Ja briefly went underground in January 2011 after Northern Regional Command, Brig-Gen Zeyar Aung issued an arrest warrant against her in an apparent attempt to stymie her efforts to seek redress for the farmers. The bravery she showed in repeatedly standing up to Burma's central government despite repeated intimidation has won Bawk Ja many fans across the country and around the world.

Bawk Ja traveled to the US in February of last year at the invitation of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), a US-government funded democracy promotion group. During her visit she met with then US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Bawk Ja also registered as an NDF candidate to run during last year round of by-elections. Ultimately she was denied a chance to contest when polling for the three seats up for grabs in Kachin state was called off, obstinately for security reasons.

She previously ran as an NDF candidate in the November 2010 election. While many people expected her to win a seat at the time, Bawk Ja lost to a candidate from the military backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) after 13,255 votes were controversially declared invalid.

Bawk Ja, initially challenged the final vote count in the Hpakant consistency, which gave the USDP candidate Ohn Myint 29,426 vote to her total of 21,633. In June 2011, Bawk Ja dropped her challenge after Ohn Myint resigned his lower house seat to become the union Minister for Cooperatives. Ohn Myint, who served as Northern Regional Commander in the Burmese army was instrumental in assisting Yuzana seize land in the Hukaung valley and considered close to the firm's owner.
Source link: http://www.kachinnews.com/news/2538-burmese-police-arrest-kachin-activist-bawk-ja.html

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