Myanmar Strips Imprisoned Veteran Rakhine Politician of MP Status

By Nyein Nyein 20 May 2020

The Union Election Commission (UEC) has annulled imprisoned Rakhine politician Dr. Aye Maung’s status as a Lower House lawmaker and barred him from running in future elections due to his treason conviction.

In an announcement dated May 18 but published in state-run newspapers on Wednesday, the UEC said Dr. Aye Maung was removed from the MPs list and had been ineligible to serve as a lawmaker since March 19, 2019, when he was convicted of treason. He is still a prisoner under the existing law, it added.

Prominent Rakhine politician Dr. Aye Maung, the founder and former chairman of the Arakan National Party, was elected to the Upper House in 2010. He lost his seat in the 2015 general election but was elected to the Lower House representing Rakhine State’s An Township in the April 1, 2017 by-election.

The commission said Dr. Aye Maung’s imprisonment under two articles of the Penal Code makes him ineligible to serve as a lawmaker under Article 11(d) of the Lower House Election Law, which states that any elected lawmaker imprisoned under an existing law can no longer hold a seat in Parliament.

In March last year, the District Court in Sittwe, Rakhine State sentenced Dr. Aye Maung and author Ko Wai Hin Aung to 20 years in prison for high treason under Article 122(1) of the Penal Code, and another two years for defaming the state under Article 505(b), to be served concurrently. They were arrested in January 2018 in Sittwe for remarks they made earlier that month at an event in Rathedaung Township commemorating the 233rd anniversary of the fall of the Arakan Kingdom to the Burmese in 1785. They were prosecuted in September 2018.

In January of this year the pair lost their special appeal to the Supreme Court of the Union, in which they asked the court to conduct a plenary session to reconsider the punishment.

The commission added that Dr. Aye Maung is barred from running in future elections under Article 88(a) of the Lower House Election Law, which states that any parliamentarian who loses his seat after being found guilty of treason, or after being sentenced to life imprisonment for any offense, loses his or her right to contest any election for either the Lower or Upper House of the Union Parliament, or for any state or regional parliament.

Until Monday, when the Union Parliament resumed in Naypyitaw, Dr. Aye Maung’s name was among the list of MPs who are on leave.

U Pe Than, a Lower House lawmaker from the ANP representing Myebon constituency, said he would not dispute the commission’s decision as it acted in line with the election law.

“But it is too harsh that he was punished under this treason law for speaking at a public event, which is the opposite of an armed rebellion. And they were not instigating a riot,” U Pe Than said.

Even as the government holds peace talks and ceasefire negotiations with ethnic armed rebel groups fighting for autonomy and self-determination, the parliamentarian was persecuted for expressing his views, he added.

U Pe Than told The Irrawaddy that ethnic politicians would continue to talk about the inequality and lack of federalism in the country. But if such prosecutions and punishments persist, he said, “it would be a threat to all ethnic politicians,” not only to Dr. Aye Maung.

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