A total of 28 people have each been sentenced to 20 years in prison with hard labor after the military regime found them guilty of arson attacks on Chinese-backed factories in Yangon’s Hlaing Tharyar Industrial Zone.
The regime imposed martial law in Hlaing Tharyar Township following the factory fires, after Beijing demanded that the junta take immediate action against the perpetrators and move to protect Chinese citizens and interests.
Military-controlled newspapers claimed that two factories – Myanmar Rong Wei New Material Company Limited and Yuan Hong Garment Company limited – were set on fire in March by the 28 people.
Rong Wei New Material is a joint venture between a Chinese citizen and a Myanmar citizen, while Yuan Hong is jointly owned by two investors from Taiwan and Hong Kong, according to the government investment agency the Directorate of Investment and Company Administration.
Chinese government mouthpiece the Global Times claimed that 32 factories built with Chinese investment had been vandalized, looted and burned, causing around US$37 million in damage. The Chinese Embassy in Yangon said that two Chinese employees were injured in the attacks.
But as the regime launched a deadly crackdown on anti-coup protesters in Hlaing Tharyar, pro-democracy protesters across Myanmar condemned Beijing’s demands and denied the allegations, saying that the arson attacks were a plot by the military to justify harsher crackdowns.
Last month, coup leader Senior General Min Aung Hlaing visited the damaged Chinese-backed factories in Hlaing Tharyar. He handed out sacks of rice to be distributed to workers and attempted to demonstrate that the factory zone has returned to normal, even though thousands of workers have fled the area since the junta’s lethal crackdowns on protesters.
During an interview with Hong Kong-based Phoenix Television earlier this week, Snr- Gen Min Aung Hlaing said that he had urged the Yangon regional authority to exercise its responsibility for protecting Chinese-funded projects in the Yangon area.
Of the 28 people found guilty by the military court, 18 are still at large, according to military media.
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