Couple Guilty of Immigration Offense in Case Tied to Mandalay Riots

By Zarni Mann 17 September 2014

MANDALAY — A court in Pyinmana Township has found a married couple guilty of violating Burma’s immigration law in a case linked to July’s deadly rioting in Mandalay, sentencing them to two years in prison with hard labor.

Ye Htut and Nu Nu Myat were found guilty on Monday of exiting Burma without the required documentation, in breach of the immigration law. They are also facing separate charges for allegedly fabricating rape claims and providing false information in a case that has been blamed for igniting the violence in Mandalay, which left two people dead and more than 20 others injured.

The couple fled the country with two other people sometime after three days of violence wracked Mandalay in early July. They were later arrested in the Thai border town of Mae Sot.

“The Pyinmana Township Court has sentenced them to two years’ imprisonment with hard labor. They still have to face the other trials,” said a duty officer from the Pyinmana police station, declining to provide further details.

According to the Mandalay divisional police office, the couple will stand trial in Mandalay and Pyin Oo Lwin jurisdictions on charges of providing false information and contempt of court.

“After they finish all the trials in Pyinmana, they have to face three more trials in Mandalay and Pyin Oo Lwin, for providing wrong information about the rape case and contempt of court,” said Zaw Win Aung, the deputy police superintendent of the Mandalay divisional police.

The false rape claims set off rioting after word spread, largely via social media, that two Muslim men had raped a Buddhist woman. Burma’s Ministry of Home Affairs has said that the couple paid a woman named Phyu Phyu Min to open a rape case against the Muslim brothers, Nay Win and San Win, at the behest of Tun Tun, a business rival of the brothers.

The businessman Tun Tun and his wife, who has also been implicated in spreading the rape allegations, have also reportedly been arrested and are standing trial in Pyinmana.

Meanwhile, a trial related to the killing of the two men—one a Buddhist and the other Muslim—is ongoing, with witnesses currently providing court testimony.

According to lawyers involved in the case, 14 suspects have been detained and are facing trial for the murders of Tun Tun and Soe Min.

“The cross examination of the witnesses is going to end at the next hearing and the court is likely to finalize charges against the suspects. Some suspects will go free if the court finds that they were not involved in the murder,” said Thein Than Oo, a lawyer for one of the murder suspects.

“I believe these suspects, including Ye Htut, Nu Nu Myat and Phyu Phyu Min, are just the victims during this violence. The authorities need to uncover the real culprit behind this incident. If not, this kind of violence will break out again in the future,” said the lawyer, who is also a member of the Mandalay Peacekeeping Committee.