Former Child Soldier Jailed For Media Interview Walks Free After Two Years

A former child soldier who was jailed after speaking to the media about his ordeal walked free on Friday morning after finishing his two-year prison sentence.

Aung Ko Htwe, 28, was defiant as he left Yangon’s Insein prison, telling reporters that the military-drafted 2008 constitution must be abolished. 

“It’s only useful for the cronies and the dictators,” he said.

He was arrested in August 2017 after speaking to Radio Free Asia about his experience of being kidnapped and forced into the military at the age of 14.

He received an 18-month sentence in March last year under section 505b, which outlaws inducing people to commit offenses against the state and causing fear or alarm to the public.

He also received a six-month sentence for insulting a public servant after calling the judge a “bovine judge” during the trial.

On the day of his sentencing his supporters protested the decision by stepping on a copy of the constitution, which gives the military sweeping political power.

After the protest authorities tried to press charges against Aung Ko Htwe under the Union Seal Law, which punishes damaging the seal featured on the constitution with up to three years in prison. 

He was not involved in the protest and was acquitted of that charge, but his sister Nay Zar Htun took part and has been detained since then under section 505b and another law against causing unrest.

Two years after he was abducted at Yangon’s main railway station, Aung Ko Htwe ran away from the military with a friend who was later accused of robbery and murder.

Aung Ko Htwe was charged as an accomplice and given a life sentence. That was later reduced to 10 years and he was released from Mandalay’s Obo prison in July 2017, just weeks before he gave the media interview that landed him in prison again.

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