Rakhine Political Leader Faces High Treason, Defamation Charges

By Min Aung Khine 10 September 2018

SITTWE, Rakhine State — The Sittwe District Court ruled on Monday that prominent Arakanese politician Dr. Aye Maung and author Wai Hin Aung be prosecuted for high treason and defamation of the State.

The two were arrested in the second week of January in Sittwe, the state capital, for remarks at a commemoration event in Rathedaung Township earlier that month for the 233rd anniversary of the fall of the Arakan Kingdom to the Burmese in 1785.

The two reportedly expressed support for the ethnic armed group the Arakan Army (AA), which has been labeled by the Myanmar Army or Tatmadaw as an insurgent group.

They were then charged for high treason, defamation of the State and unlawful association.

“We were prosecuted under Article 122, high treason, and Article 505 (b), defamation of the State [under the Penal Code]. The charge for unlawful association was dismissed. According to the 1973 Interpretation of Expressions Law, we should be prosecuted for only one charge,” writer Wai Hin Aung told the reporters.

“But we are being prosecuted under two charges. Today has proven that Myanmar’s judicial sector is not impartial,” he added.

The former Lower House lawmaker of Rakhine State’s Ann Township Dr. Aye Maung also said that the charges are not fair.

“Far from staging an armed rebellion, I didn’t even bring a toothpick [to the public talks],” he said.

“I just spoke a bit openly as a politician and lawmaker, as the government is said to be the people’s government establishing a federal democracy. I’d say that the current government has an even more hardline attitude than U Thein Sein’s government in the reconstruction era,” he added.

Dozens of police were deployed around the court on Monday and locals from Sittwe, Rathedaung and Ann townships also came to support the two men.

The court hearing of the defense witnesses will begin on Sept. 17 and the two will not appeal to the higher level courts to review the charges, said defense lawyer U Kyaw Nyunt Maung.

“Dr. Aye Maung doesn’t want to appeal. He believes that the charges will not change even if he appeals. He feels sorry that the president has permitted his prosecution,” the lawyer told the reporters.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.