Death Sentence for Captain Who Fled Army to Join Rebels

A court martial has given the death sentence to a former military captain who fled the Tatmadaw and joined an insurgent group after he was charged with desertion and providing “intelligence to the enemy”.  

Saw Ye Htet ran away from the army in 2010 while he was receiving treatment for back injuries after being beaten by a senior student during training in Pyin Oo Lwin, according to his wife.

He later joined the Democratic Karen Benevolent Army (DKBA) after living in Thailand for two years.

He was also sentenced for desertion, the Tatmadaw confirmed late last month, but has been transferred to a civilian prison. No death row inmates have been executed in Myanmar since the 1980s.

Colonel Maung Maung Latt, the spokesperson for Eastern Regional Military Command, told Myanmar Now that Saw Ye Htet was sentenced under section 32d and section 37 of the Defence Services Act.

The former forbids providing intelligence to an “enemy” and carries the death sentence. The latter punishes desertion while not on active service with up to seven years jail time, and gives the death sentence for desertion while on active service.

It is unclear if he was sentenced to death under just one of the sections or both.

Colonel Maung Maung Latt said both sections “are punishable by death” but did not elaborate on the details of his sentence, instead referring Myanmar Now to prison authorities.  

Linn Bo Naung, the state head of the Mon State Prisons Department, said Saw Ye Htet has been transferred to Mawlamyine prison but declined to share further details about his sentence.  

Htwe Htwe Khine, Saw Ye Htet’s wife, said he was given the death penalty and will appeal the sentence.

Saw Ye Htet hails from the Shan-ni ethnic minority in Myitkyina, Kachin State. He graduated from the Defence Services Academy’s 50th batch.

He worked with the DKBA until it split in 2014, and then went to work as a personal assistant to Colonel Saw San Aung, she said.

Last September she and Saw Ye Htet were travelling by motorcycle near Myawaddy when a group of men wearing civilian clothes captured him.

She visited him in Mawlamyine prison on March 23 and he was in good health, she said. She has been struggling to raise a 2-year-old child and finds it difficult to visit her husband in prison, she added.

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