Two Get Death Sentences

Two Burmese defendants get death sentences for leaking news about a high-level visit to North Korea.

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burmese-in-NK-305.jpg Burmese Gen. Thura Shwe Mann and North Korean Gen. Kim Kyok Sik sign a Memorandum of Understanding expanding military ties, Nov. 26, 2008.
Photo: RFA

BANGKOK—A Burmese court has sentenced a government employee and a retired army officer to death for leaking secret details of a government visit to North Korea in 2008, according to reporters based in Burma's former capital, Rangoon.

A court inside Burma's Insein Prison handed down the rulings on Thursday, reports quoted legal officials as saying. The country’s tightly closed media have not reported on the case.

The men, retired Major Win Naing Kyaw and Foreign Ministry employee Thura Kyaw, were convicted of distributing photographs of a secret network of military tunnels along with a report containing evidence of high-level contacts with North Korea, raising international fears that Burma could be developing nuclear weapons.

Win Naing Kyaw was also sentenced to a 20-year prison term for holding illegal foreign currency and for violating a law banning the Internet transmission of data, photos, or video seen as damaging to the government.

Win Naing Kyaw's wife declined to speak with reporters.

A leading lawyer in Burma who asked not to be named said he doubts the death sentences will be carried out, noting that more than 200 people have been on death row in Burma since 1988 and that none has been executed.

Documents and photos contained in the leaked report purportedly show a November 2008 visit to North Korea and China by a Burmese military delegation led the junta's third-ranking figure, armed forces chief of staff Gen. Thura Shwe Mann.

The report was transmitted to RFA's Burmese service through a knowledgeable source in Rangoon.

Burma and North Korea—both reclusive pariah states subject to international sanctions—are said to have agreed during the reported visit to expand cooperation to modernize Burma’s military, including construction of underground installations.

Photographs said to have been taken from 2003-2006 of a vast tunnel network in Burma, allegedly built with North Korean help, were leaked separately.

Burmese sources report that authorities have arrested dozens of other people in connection with the leaks.

Original reporting by  Kyaw Kyaw Aung for RFA's Burmese service and by news agencies. Burmese service director: Nancy Shwe. Executive producer: Susan Lavery. Written in English by Sarah Jackson-Han.


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Jan 15, 2010 11:32 PM

Maybe no one has been executed since 1988, but there has been a lot of murders in prison, and any were Thitsaphout Than Shwe feels like killing people.