Nearly 50 politicians and prodemocracy activists — including the head of Magway region and members of the deposed National League for Democracy (NLD) — have been sentenced to long-term imprisonment by the junta’s secret military tribunals in Myanmar over the past two days, according to sources.
The two-day period marked one of the most severe crackdowns on the junta’s opposition in the nearly 11 months since the military seized power from the NLD in a Feb. 1 coup and drew condemnation from observers.
Former Magway region Chief Minister Aung Moe Nyo, 60, was handed an 18-year prison term on six counts of “corruption” related to projects during his tenure on Thursday, while two of his Cabinet members received terms of nine and 12 years for the same charges. The speaker of Magway region’s Parliament was also sentenced to six years in prison on two counts of corruption, prosecutors told RFA’s Myanmar Service.
Similarly, the secretary of the NLD, which the military removed from power in a Feb. 1 coup, as well the treasurer of the party’s Central Elections Committee and a member of its Central Executive Committee were all sentenced to two years in prison. The speaker of Mandalay region’s Parliament was handed a five-year sentence, according to sources close to the court who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Other sentences included a one-year term for a student leader and a three-year term for a former student activist who took part in protests in the 1990s.
Lawyers said Min Thwe Thit, a student leader, was sentenced to one year in prison and Aye Aung, a former university student from1996-98, was given a 3-year prison sentence.
Aung Moe Nyo’s lawyer Myint Aung told RFA that his client had no plans to appeal his sentence, which followed the conclusion of a special trial in Magway Prison two months ago, “as it wouldn't make any difference.”
A political colleague in Magway who has worked with Aung Moe Nyo since Myanmar’s 1990 election told RFA that accusations of corruption were “totally out of the question” for the former regional chief.
“It’s meant to break him psychologically,” said the colleague, who declined to be named.
Aung Moe Nyo’s brother, Aung Thu Nyo, called the sentencing “politically motivated” because he believes that his sibling was free of corruption.
The military had already sentenced Aung Moe Nyo to two years in prison in June for speech that “is likely to cause fear or alarm in the public,” bringing his total punishment to 20 years. He has yet to face trial on two counts related to “abuse of power” during the country’s November 2020 general election, which the NLD won in a landslide.
The junta says voter fraud led to the party’s victory but has yet to provide evidence for its claims and has violently suppressed nationwide protests calling for a return to civilian rule, killing 1,382 people and arresting 8,331 since February, according to the Bangkok-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.
In addition to the punishments doled out to politicians on Thursday, two well-known actors — Lu Min and Ye Dike — were sentenced to three years in prison with hard labor each for “defamation” a day earlier by a court in Yangon’s notorious Insein Prison, according to a lawyer close to the proceedings. Lawyers also told RFA that 40 political activists detained at Pyay Prison in western Bago region were also sentenced to between one and two years in jail by a court on Wednesday evening.
Political analyst Than Soe Naing criticized the military for handing out tough sentences to political activists in various prisons at a time when people preparing to welcome in the new year.
“It’s like a warning to … all democratic forces who oppose their views: that the junta will not tolerate any opposition,” he said.
“Though amnesties are [sometimes] granted, those who could cause trouble for [the junta] will not be released. … I think they will continue to detain people who stand up for democracy.”
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