Arakan Army Supporters’ Trial to Wrap Up Within 9 Months, Myanmar Court Says

By Nan Lwin Hnin Pwint 26 September 2019

YANGON—The trial of the leaders of the Arakanese Association-Singapore (AAS), who are accused of having ties with the Arakan Army (AA), is expected to be complete within nine months, or 270 days, according to court officials.

The Singaporean government revoked the immigration status of a group of Arakanese living in Singapore who belong to the AAS and deported them in the second week of July for allegedly supporting and fundraising for the AA, an ethnic armed organization currently fighting the Myanmar military in Rakhine State.

Myanmar police detained nine people in connection with the case, including Ko Aung Myat Kyaw, who is a brother of the AA chief, and AAS Chairman Ko Hein Zaw, on their return from Singapore.

In July, the Yangon Western District Court introduced a case-management system intended to facilitate swift trials. It classifies cases into three categories—those that need to be handled urgently; simple cases; and complicated cases. The court is treating the AAS case as complicated.

“Complicated cases are those which involve fugitives, more than three defendants, or dozens of witnesses, and which also require medical evidence and expert remarks,” said the court’s information officer, U Zaw Zaw Htun.

Verdicts are to be delivered within three months for cases in the first category, six months for those in the second category and nine months for those in the third.

The Western District Court will hear from all witnesses for the plaintiff within three months.

One of the detainees is taxi driver Ko Myat Lin Oo, who was arrested on the Yangon-Mandalay Expressway while driving two AAS leaders.

U Kyaw Myo Tun, a defense lawyer for Ko Myat Lin Oo, said, “I want his case decided swiftly. He is just a taxi driver, and he was hired by them.”

The Singapore Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) arrested the leaders of the AAS, who were reportedly working as engineers in Singapore, at their houses on July 6 and 7.

In a statement, the MHA said a group of Myanmar nationals in Singapore had organized and mobilized members of the local Myanmar community to financially support the AA. It also said they were involved in celebrations of the 10th anniversary of the founding of the AA in April in Singapore. During those celebrations, it said, the leader of the AA live-streamed a video urging the Rakhine people to unite and join the AA’s armed struggle for Rakhine independence.

Myanmar’s Ministry of Home Affairs has issued warrants for 164 more individuals suspected of having ties to the AAS.

Though the AA is designated as a terrorist group in Myanmar, both the Myanmar government and military are holding talks with it in the hopes of signing a bilateral ceasefire agreement.

The detainees have been charged under Article 50(j) of the Counter-Terrorism Law for allegedly financing terrorism, and Article 52(a) for allegedly aiding and abiding terrorism. The first charge carries a term of life imprisonment and the second carries a term of three to seven years in prison.