Disgraced Former Religion Minister’s Appeal Rejected

By Yen Saning 10 December 2014

RANGOON — The Mandalay Divisional Court has rejected the appeal of former Religious Affairs Minister Hsan Hsint, who was sentenced in October to 13 years in prison on charges of corruption and sedition, according to his lawyer.

Tin Tun, the ex-minister’s lawyer, said the court did not indicate why the appeal had been turned down.

“The court should provide a reason when denying such appeals cases. … The court said the case has been denied ‘in brief’ rather than listing the broad facts and reasons [for the rejection],” he said of the court’s decision on Tuesday.

“The court has the right to reject the appeal, but we will further appeal to the Supreme Court in Naypyidaw,” Tin Tun said, referring to the nation’s highest tribunal.

On Oct. 17, the Dekkhinathiri District Court in Naypyidaw sentenced Hsan Hsint to three years in prison under Article 409 of the Penal Code—criminal breach of trust by a public servant—and 10 years and a 100,000 kyats (US$100) fine under Article 124(a), which covers “attempts to bring hatred or contempt … or disaffection toward [the government].”

The former minister was transferred from Yamaethin Prison to Taunggu Prison on Oct. 31.

Hsan Hsint’s fall from grace began on June 19, when President Thein Sein dismissed him as head of the Ministry of Religious Affairs for “not performing his duties efficiently.” Local media reports subsequently claimed that he had also been accused of misappropriating millions of kyats from his ministry’s budget for personal interests.

While he was charged for the alleged misuse of public funds under Article 409, the bulk of his sentence was handed down under Article 124(a), a sedition charge that was added by prosecutors in July.

His firing in June followed a controversial raid on a monastery in Rangoon by the state-backed Buddhist clergy, which had been in an ownership dispute with a group of monks who refused to leave the monastery. The raid led to the arrest of five monks who have since been released on bail. Local media reported that Hsan Hsint and other cabinet members had disagreed over the plan to clear the monastery.