Top Myanmar Court Rejects Final Appeal for Rakhine Activists in Treason Case

By Zaw Zaw Htwe 24 January 2020

YANGON—The Union Supreme Court in Naypyitaw rejected a final special appeal on Friday from two Rakhine political activists who were sentenced to over 20 years in prison for committing treason.

The Rakhine State government sued prominent ethnic Rakhine lawmaker Dr. Aye Maung and writer Wai Hin Aung under Articles 122 and 505(b) of the Penal Code and Article 17(1) and (2) of the Unlawful Association Act.

The two were arrested in January 2018 for giving speeches at a public event in Rakhine’s Rathedaung Township in which they said that the ethnic Burmese-dominated National League for Democracy (NLD) government is treating Rakhine people like slaves.

In March 2019, the Sittwe District Court sentenced them to 22 years in prison under Article 122, also known as the Treason Law, and Article 505 (b) of the Penal Code. The charges under Articles 17 (1) and (2) of the Unlawful Association Act were dropped because the plaintiff withdrew the case due to a lack of evidence.

Lawyer U Aung Kyaw Sein, representing Dr Aye Maung, told The Irrawaddy on Friday that the courts have now rejected three appeals.

He said their final special appeal asserted that giving speeches in public is not covered under the restrictions of the section of the Treason Law, as there were no armed acts or attempts to commit violence against the government.

The defense also pointed out in the final special appeal that the lower court’s decision against the two Rakhine political activists was beyond the purview of the law.

”According to the law, it is over. We can’t attempt to appeal anymore,” said lawyer U Aung Kyaw Sein.

The only option open to the defense now is for the families of the two prisoners to seek pardons from the Myanmar president.

”As a member of parliament, he must be allowed to criticize the government. In the court’s judgment, it seems that even MPs are not allowed to criticize the government,” said Rakhine regional lawmaker U Tin Maung Win, also the son of lawmaker Dr. Aye Maung.

Another member of the Rakhine parliament, Tin Maung Win, told The Irrawaddy on Friday that it is a bad sign if a wrong word is reason enough to be charged under the Treason Law.

The Arakan Front Party (AFP) also issued a statement on Thursday demanding that the government release political prisoners, including Dr Aye Maung and the detainees who have been arrested in conjunction with the current conflict between the Arakan Army (AA) and the Myanmar military. The AFP pointed out that the AA recently released an NLD lawmaker who was detained for over two months, showing their real attitudes for building peace.

Dr Aye Maung was elected to the Upper House of Parliament in 2010 but was defeated in 2015 when he ran for a seat in the Rakhine regional parliament.

He returned to the Upper House seat for Ann Township after winning the 2017 by-election.