BANGKOK—A prison court in the central Burmese city of Thayet has sentenced 10 men to jail terms ranging from two to nine years for taking part in widespread protests against the ruling junta a year ago, their relatives said.
The judicial court at Thayet Prison in Magway Division handed down the sentences Sept. 11, several of the men’s wives said. Charges brought against them included inciting public disturbances, discrediting the government, and participating in public demonstrations, they said.
Two members of the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) from the area were sentenced Aug. 23 to 2-1/2 years each for presenting a letter to authorities in Pakokku demanding action to curb rising prices.
Day by day, we have come to realize more and more that we will suffer when we become involved in politics."
Myint Oo’s wife, Sanda Win
On Sept. 7, the junta also announced the arrests of several activists accused of organizing bombings and street demonstrations in a further signal that authorities plan to maintain tight security as the anniversary of last year’s uprising approaches.
Sentences handed down
Thant Shin, from Pakokku, was sentenced to seven years for threatening state security and two years for inciting public disturbances. Tha Aung, Nay La, and Sein Lin, also from Pakokku, were sentenced to two years each for inciting public disturbances. Ko Pho Ni and Ko Nyein Chan, also from Pakokku, were sentenced to seven years each for destroying public property.
Myint Oo, Magway Division secretary of the NLD, was handed a two-year term for discrediting the government and a six-month term for participating in a public demonstration. Tha Cho, NLD member from Yenangyaung, in Magway Division, was sentenced to 2-1/2 years for taking part in a demonstration.
Tun Tun Nyein, NLD member from Chauk in Magway Division, was given 2-1/2 years for taking part in a demonstration. Ko Htay Win, NLD member from Natmauk, in Magway Division, was given two years for taking part in a demonstration.
“Day by day, we have come to realize more and more that we will suffer when we become involved in politics," Myint Oo’s wife, Sanda Win, said.
Her husband, she said, “has suffered for the past year, and now, after a year, they have sentenced him. I don’t know how difficult or complicated it must have been to question and interrogate him, for it took a year to come up with an answer. We had expected this right from the beginning.”
“We will continue with our efforts for our country, not giving up in any way. That is what I want to say,” Sanda Win said.
Tha Aung’s wife, Htay Htay Hlaing, also criticized the sentences.
“They have not really committed these crimes, and it has been properly pleaded in court that they are not guilty of these crimes. Therefore it is not right that they have been given the most severe sentences for crimes that they have not actually committed,” she said.
On Sunday, national police chief Brigadier Gen. Khin Yi told a news conference in the capital Naypyidaw that three NLD members were arrested last month for a bombing in July in a suburb of Rangoon, Burma’s biggest city.
Khin Yi said one of those arrested for the attack on an office of the Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA) was Myint Aye, a prominent human rights activist.
The USDA is a government-sponsored social welfare group that serves as a civilian proxy for military interests.
Khin Yi also said leaders of an anti-government group called the New Generation for Democracy were arrested for planning several bombings and for plotting to topple the government with backing from foreign countries and dissident groups.
Witnesses cite stepped-up security in Burma since late August, apparently to discourage any protests in connection with the anniversary of last year’s Saffron Revolution, in which monks and lay people took to the streets in the biggest show of opposition to the junta since 1988.
The United Nations has estimated that at least 31 people, including a Japanese photojournalist, were killed when the army suppressed the protests. Hundreds were arrested, and many others fled Burma or went into hiding.
Burma’s military has ruled the country without interruption since 1962. The NLD, led by Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, won a general election in 1990 but was barred from taking power.
Original reporting by RFA’s Burmese service. Burmese service director: Nancy Shwe. Executive producer: Susan Lavery. Translated by Soe Thinn. Edited and produced in English by Sarah Jackson-Han.