Burma’s Former Religion Minister Hit With Sedition Charge

By Htet Naing Zaw 23 July 2014

RANGOON — Former Religious Affairs Minister Hsan Hsint, who is being prosecuted for alleged misuse of his ministry’s funds, on Tuesday found himself facing a sedition charge as well.

The former minister stood trial at the Dekkhinathiri Township Court in Naypyidaw on Tuesday. It was only then that the second charge, under Article 124(a) of the penal code, became public knowledge, Hsan Hsint’s lawyer Tin Tun told The Irrawaddy.

“The previous charge was Article 409, misappropriation [of state funds]. And now is the charge of disrespecting or aiding and abetting disrespect for the state. He has been charged with disrespecting the state since the 8th of this month,” he explained.

The court only allowed two of five lawyers to be present at Tuesday’s trial on the pretext of limited space. It also did not allow reporters into the courtroom during the hearing.

“They [police] have deployed many plainclothes security guards. And they tried to cover [Hsan Hsint] so that [reporters] couldn’t take photos,” a foreign correspondent told The Irrawaddy.

“The gate [at the courthouse] was opened only for cars to come in and people were not allowed to enter. When I told them to open the gate, they pretended like they didn’t hear me. It was not convenient for newsgathering,” he said.

Prior to his initial hearing on July 3, Hsan Hsint told journalists outside the courthouse that he did not commit any crime, and claimed that “though my stand was correct,” he was being prosecuted for failing to obey the president’s orders.

Hsan Hsint is in poor health and is receiving medical treatment at the Yamethin Township Hospital. He was allowed to meet with his family on Tuesday.

After authorities in June raided the Maha Thanti Thukha Monastery, a case that has pitted the State Central Sangha Maha Nayaka Committee against the abbot Penang Sayadaw in an ownership dispute, President Thein Sein dismissed Hsan Hsint from his ministerial position. He was then charged with misappropriation of state funds at the Pobbathiri Township Court in Naypyidaw.