A prominent Myanmar attorney has agreed to handle the case of a former child soldier sentenced to two years of hard labor following his conviction for describing his abduction and forced military service as a minor in an interview last year with RFA’s Myanmar Service.
In late March, Dagon Seikkan Township Court in Yangon convicted Aung Ko Htway, 27, who spent nearly a decade as a child soldier, for public incitement under Section 505(b) of the country’s Penal Code.
Aung Ko Htway appeared before judge Chit Ko Ko at the same court on Tuesday along with three others accused of desecrating the country’s seal during a previous hearing in January when they trampled on a copy of the military-drafted 2008 constitution in a sign of protest.
All four face a maximum sentence of three years in prison if found guilty.
Legal activist and human rights lawyer Robert San Aung, who attended the hearing, said he is taking up Aung Ko Htway’s case and will represent him in future court hearings.
In 2015, Robert San Aung received the annual Martin Ennals Award in recognition of his work as one of Myanmar’s top human rights defenders.
Aung Ko Htway was abducted by a Myanmar army sergeant in 2005 when he was 14 years old and later imprisoned after he and two others escaped and robbed the owner of a motorcycle. One of the other boys had strangled the man, though Aung Ko Htway maintains that he did not participate in the murder.
He served seven months at a prison camp in Lashio, the largest town in Myanmar’s northern Shan state, where he was shackled and fed a mixture of rice and sand until he agreed to sign a confession.
Though Aung Ko Htway was originally sentenced to death, he had his sentence reduced twice under presidential amnesties. He was finally released on July 15, 2017, and returned home where he started a business with his sister’s help selling cotton clothing in Kalawae village in Yangon region’s Thanlyin township.
Interviewed about his experiences by RFA in August 2017, he was arrested about a week after his story aired.
Aung Ko Htway's next hearing is scheduled for April 24, the online news service Democratic Voice of Burma reported.