YANGON (AFP) – Five Myanmar men fined for publishing a calendar that described the country’s persecuted Muslim Rohingya as a recognized ethnic minority have been rearrested and jailed on fresh charges, police said Wednesday.
The men were initially taken into custody over the weekend in Yangon and fined $800 each on Monday after pleading guilty to a publishing law offence. But they have now been rearrested and jailed on separate charges of inciting alarm or panic, a charge that carries up to two years jail.
“We arrested five persons yesterday under the warrant by the court. They were sent to Insein prison,” said Khin Maung Latt, police chief of Pazundaung township.
Local media reported that the calendar, which initially appeared on Facebook, quoted former officials from the 1950s and 1960s as saying Myanmar’s Rohingya were a distinct ethnic group. It also contained quotes from Myanmar’s liberation hero Aung San – father if Aung San Suu Kyi – in 1946 saying Muslims and Buddhists should live in peace with each other. Myanmar’s government does not recognize the term “Rohingya,” arguing that the Muslim minority are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, despite the fact that many have lived in the country for generations. Use of the term has become both sensitive and dangerous in recent years as Myanmar undergoes a surge of Buddhist nationalism and anti-Muslim sentiment.