YANGON — A court in Shan State on Monday convicted eight Shan men accused of fighting for the Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS), an ethnic armed group, and sentenced them to prison terms ranging from three to 10 years.
The Ho Pong Township court sentenced Sai San Sai to 10 years; Sai Peng Sa to eight; Seng Sai, Ohm Nut, Sai San and Sai Khun to seven; Sai Hla Tun to four; and Aike Ko to three.
All eight men hail from Nang Kut village in Mong Pyin district and were convicted on four charges: unlawful use of a firearm; unlawful use of a walkie-talkie, illegal import of a vehicle; and attacking the military.
The RCSS engaged the Myanmar military, or Tatmadaw, in Nang Kut in July, seizing weapons and killing some soldiers.
Sao Myawaddy, the eight men’s lawyer, claims that after the fighting the Tatmadaw went house to house seizing homemade guns and bullets. She says the Tatmadaw detained her clients in the process and beat them before handing them over to police after 10 days.
“They [authorities] did not consider any request from the victims. They even could not answer when I asked what they were being punished for in court,” she told The Irrawaddy on Wednesday. “Every local Shan has homemade guns. It is not something unusual that they should be punished for; it is their traditional practice.”
Sao Myawaddy said one of her clients was merely the driven for a Buddhist monastery where the army seized the car the court used as evidence to convict them of illegally importing a vehicle.
She said their lengthy trial, which lasted some seven months, was just theater.
“It was just a show, having public court appearances. But they had already decided how to punish these local villagers,” she said.
“They tried to arrest members of the RCSS. When they could not arrest the RCSS they arrested whoever they could, so they arrested villagers,” said Sai Naw Awng, a Ho Pong resident who has been in regular contact with the eight men since their arrest.
The RCSS was among the original eight armed groups to sign the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement with the government in October 2015, but it has periodically clashed with the Tatmadaw since.