Another charge added to junta’s case against Rakhine State chief minister

Two Rakhine State ministers were charged with violating Myanmar’s military-drafted 2008 Constitution last week, according to a lawyer working for the defence. 

The charge, of violating Section 130a of the Penal Code, was brought against Nyi Pu, the state’s chief minister, and former municipal minister and Taungup Township MP Min Aung on December 22. 

The plaintiff for the most recent charge is secretary of the junta’s election commission for Rakhine State, Thurein Tun. The next hearing is reportedly scheduled for January 5. Further details of the allegations had not been revealed at the time of reporting. 

The hearing last Wednesday was not for examination but for the purpose of informing the defendants of the charges and the schedule of court dates, according to Aye Kyaw Than, the lawyer from Thazin Legal Aid group who is representing Nyi Pu. 

“It was more of a notification that this charge has been added to his case,” he explained. 

He told Myanmar Now that the next hearing in early January was likely to take place as a video conference. 

Nyi Pu was among those ousted in the February coup in which the military seized power from the elected National League for Democracy (NLD) administration. He was initially placed under house arrest and later transferred to a detention centre and charged with incitement after the NLD published statements encouraging public resistance to military rule following the coup earlier that month. 

Even though he was in custody at the time the statements were published, the 66-year-old politician was sentenced to two years in prison with hard labour in early October, after he was found guilty by the junta’s judicial mechanism of violating Section 505b of the Penal Code for inducing people to “commit an offence against the state.” 

The Sittwe District Court rejected Nyi Pu’s appeal to overturn the sentence for the incitement conviction on the same day it was submitted. He is planning to appeal again to the Rakhine State High Court, according to his lawyer. 

Because of his position as an NLD central executive committee member, Nyi Pu is expected to be hit with further charges by the junta.

From left: Nyi Pu, Kyaw Aye Thein, Kyaw Lwin, Aung Kyaw Zan, Min Aung, all of whom are facing corruption charges brought forward by the junta (Supplied)

Nyi Pu and Min Aung and three other Rakhine State ministers under the NLD government—Kyaw Aye Thein, Aung Kyaw Zan and Kyaw Lwin—are also facing charges for violating Section 55 of the Anti-Corruption Law filed in early August. Hearings are ongoing, with the plaintiff’s witnesses still being examined. 

The chief minister is facing three corruption charges in total. 

Min Aung has already been sentenced to two years in prison with hard labour after being convicted of protesting without permission, a violation of Section 19 of the Penal Code, and two months—also with hard labour—for allegedly violating Section 25 of the Disaster Management Law. 

The military has been arresting NLD leaders since the coup, and stacking the charges against them. 

In a junta propaganda newspaper published in mid-November, it was announced that charges were being filed against 16 people, including State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and President Win Myint, for voter fraud and abuse of authority surrounding the 2020 general election, in which the NLD won the majority of seats.

Also among those charged were Nyi Pu and two other chief ministers—Dr Zaw Myint Maung of Mandalay and Nang Khin Htwe Myint, of Karen State. 

Zaw Myint Maung was also notified on November 22 that he would be charged with Section 130a for violating the Constitution; the allegation was added to his case file at the Aungmyay Thazan Township court in Mandalay. 

Those convicted of violating Section 130a are sentenced to up to three years in prison. 

Three more years were added to Nang Khin Htwe Myint’s sentence on December 22 for her Section 130a charge. The 67-year-old is currently sentenced to nearly 80 years in prison in total.

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