May 19, 2017
The Law Society of Upper Canada expresses grave concern about the harassment of lawyer Robert Sann Aung in Myanmar.
Robert Sann Aung is a well-known human rights lawyer and activist in Myanmar. He is a former prisoner of conscience who has been imprisoned six times for his peaceful political and human rights activities. His defence of peaceful political activists, who were charged by the former military government, led the authorities to revoke his law licence in 1993. Since it was reinstated in 2012, Robert Sann Aung has continued to represent human rights defenders and activists charged in politically motivated cases, as well as victims of human rights violations and their family members. His clients have included human rights defenders, student activists, protestors of a contested copper mine and people whose lands have been confiscated by the military. He was a 2015 finalist for the prestigious Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders.
It has come to the Law Society’s attention that Robert Sann Aung has been receiving regular death threats, insulting messages and disturbing phone calls since the assassination of lawyer U Ko Ni on January 29, 2017. In one such phone call, he was threatened with: “Aren’t you afraid to die? You will be the next person who will be killed.” These messages and phone calls (some of which are from international numbers) mostly occur between the hours of 10 pm and 12 am, and frequently warn him not to reform Myanmar’s military-drafted 2008 Constitution. Robert Sann Aung is an advocate of constitutional reform and has previously made social media posts and given a media interview in which he discussed the issue.
In addition to receiving threatening phone calls and messages, Robert Sann Aung is being monitored by Myanmar’s security forces. According to him, as he was traveling back to Mandalay on December 19, 2016, he was approached by a man wearing civilian clothes in the airport in Bhamo Township, Kachin State. The man claimed to be from Military Intelligence, but gave no evidence to substantiate the claim. Since then, the man has waited for Robert Sann Aung at the airport and followed him until he boarded his connecting flight on four separate occasions. Robert Sann Aung further reports that people surveil his home and the local teashop he frequents at least twice a week.