Myanmar Junta Pressures Courts to Speed Up Trials of Political Opponents

By The Irrawaddy 18 October 2022

Myanmar’s military regime has instructed courts to complete trials of all political cases by the end of December, according to lawyers acting for the defendants.

Junta-controlled courts reportedly plan to finish off trials for political charges filed in 2021 by October, and charges filed early this year by December.

“It is not always good to have speedy trials. Some cases are only heard for four days. Under such circumstances, courts can’t hand out documents to lawyers in time. This means lawyers can’t prepare properly, which negatively affects defendants,” said a Yangon-based lawyer speaking on condition of anonymity.

The regime has not issued an official order to complete political trials by December, but lawyers acting for defendants in Naypyitaw and Mandalay confirmed that junta-controlled courts are speeding up the hearings.

While some defendants are happy to see their cases heard swiftly, others voiced concern they will have little time to consult with their lawyers and mount a defense.

Meanwhile, court clerks are also obstructing the work of lawyers by demanding large bribes for photocopying services, said a lawyer.

By law, lawyers are only required to pay a 50-kyat photocopying application fee plus a stamp tax of 50 kyats per photocopied page. But court clerks are demanding much bigger sums, said a female lawyer from Yangon.

“Recently, I paid a court clerk 5,000 kyats to photocopy a few pages, but he complained that the amount was small. I was once asked to pay 200,000 kyats when I needed to photocopy a few dozen pages. Yangon district courts are the worst. Some, including Mingalardon District Court, blatantly ask for money. [Clerks] ask for 10,000 to 20,000 kyats to sign [the photocopying application]. It is unacceptable,” she told The Irrawaddy.

The regime is also prosecuting political detainees at military tribunals where defendants are denied their right to counsel and handed long prison sentences or even the death penalty.

Since last year’s coup, Myanmar’s military regime has detained 12,655 political opponents and sentenced 1,548 to jail, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.