The Irrawaddy

Sittwe Bombing Suspects Get Six Months for Illegal Border Crossing

Two men arrested in connection with the Feb. 24 bombings in Sittwe, Rakhine State, and convicted of illegally crossing the border appear at court in Sittwe on Wednesday.

YANGON — A court in Rakhine State on Wednesday sentenced two men arrested as suspects in a trio of bomb explosions in the state capital, Sittwe, in February to six months in prison for illegally crossing the border.

After the hearing in Sittwe, the two suspects, Ko Than Shwe and Ko Maung Myint Kyi, told reporters that they were wrongly sentenced on trumped-up charges after police could find no evidence against them for the bombings.

“They ceaselessly interrogated me about the explosions. I said I knew nothing and they asked me to say something, anything. They even asked me to talk about my wife if I had nothing to say,” said Ko Than Shwe.

“They asked me to say that I had gone to the border and said that it had nothing to do with the bombing. I was forced to say so and asked to sign. Then I was charged and sentenced to six months in prison,” he said.

On Feb. 24 three bombs exploded around Sittwe, going off in front of the Sittwe Court, in front of the Land Records Department, and in the backyard of an outspoken state government secretary, Tin Maung Swe.

Police arrested nine local residents in connection with the explosions, but they could not find enough evidence to bring them to trial after holding them on remand for 30 days.

According to police procedure, suspects cannot be held on remand for more than 30 days, so five of the nine were released on March 26. The court extended the remand for the four others — Ko Than Shwe and Ko Maung Myint Kyi on charges of illegally crossing the border and the rest on terrorism charges.

Rakhine State police chief Colonel Aung Myat Moe told The Irrawaddy that police only bring suspects to trial with evidence.

“We initially arrested nine and conducted interrogations, and we charged [the four] for illegally crossing the border and bombing according to our findings. It is the court that made the decision. We police only act according to police procedures,” the colonel said.

Ko Maung Myint Kyi denied involvement.

“We were not allowed to sleep all day, all night. We could no longer endure [the interrogations] as the days passed by. They asked me to say something if I didn’t know about the bombings. They said that I’d be punished if I said nothing,” he told reporters.

The two suspects charged with terrorism are still on trial.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.