Democracy activist Mya Aye receives two-year prison sentence on his birthday

Veteran democracy activist Mya Aye, who was arrested on the day of the military coup in February last year, was sentenced to two years in prison by a junta court on Thursday as he marked his 56th birthday.

The activist was a prominent leader of the 1988 pro-democracy uprising and was among the first people to be detained by the new junta last year. 

He was sentenced at a court inside Insein Prison, where he has been detained since his arrest, under Section 505c of the Penal Code for “inciting hate towards an ethnicity or a community,” his lawyer Thet Naung said.

A judge from Yangon’s Mingalar Taungnyunt Township Court handed down the sentence, he added. 

Mya Aye was arrested at his home in Mingalar Taungnyunt on February 1 last year and charged in mid-March, Thet Naung said, adding that his client would have around a year deducted from his sentence for time served. 

Mya Aye needs medical attention for a wound on his foot and for a heart condition, the lawyer said. In October last year, he was admitted to a hospital outside the prison for several days because of an infection in the foot.

“He’s not in very good health,” Thet Naung said. “We asked the court to let him go to an outside hospital [again] but he was not allowed in previous court hearings.” 

The charge against Mya Aye relates to an email he sent to a Chinese official seven years ago about Myanmar’s peace process. 

He wrote in the email that because of government propaganda and Burmese ethnonationalism, people in Myanmar believed that China was interfering in the peace process and had backed Kokang rebels in their fight against the Myanmar military, according to his case file. 

“The plaintiff couldn’t even submit solid evidence against him. He was arrested unjustly and sentenced unfairly,” Thet Naung said.

Mya Aye did not call any defence witnesses but testified for himself, the lawyer added. 

Mya Aye spent a total of 12 years behind bars for his role in the 1988 uprising and the 2007 Saffron Revolution. After his release in 2012 he remained politically active, often drawing the military’s anger.  

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