Judge drops immigration charge against Kyaw Myint in rare win for defence team

A judge at Mandalay’s Chan Aye Tharzan township court has dropped an immigration charge against former United Democratic Party (UDP) leader Kyaw Myint because the offence is not in the court’s jurisdiction. 

Kyaw Myint, who has already been sentenced to two years’ jail for escaping Mandalay’s Obo prison in 1999, is facing more charges as prosecutors argue the fugitive returned to Myanmar illegally in 2013.

He will also be made to serve the remainder of the nine-year sentence he absconded from 21 years ago and faces possible money laundering charges. 

Judge Kyaw Myo Win told the court on Wednesday that the prosecution should now pursue charges against Kyaw Myint in Yangon or Muse, the border town where he first crossed back into Myanmar. 

The court in the area from which an immigration offender first set out to leave the country cannot prosecute such an offence, the judge told Kyaw Myint. 

It must be a court in a region where the perpetrator first returned, according to the Immigration Act, he said.

The decision followed a petition by defence lawyers arguing the court did not have jurisdiction. 

In response to the ruling Kyaw Myint said: “Judge, I accept this and respect you. May I be imprisoned if it means Myanmar is well-off.”

Kyaw Myint, who is also known as Michael Kyaw Myint Hua Hu, was originally imprisoned for violating business laws in relation to the Myanmar Kyone Yeom Company, which he owned. 

The company was later accused of helping to launder drug money for the United Wa State Army. Kyaw Myint escaped from prison and fled to the US and then Canada. 

He returned to Myanmar with the apparent blessing of authorities and was able to live freely and run the UDP, as well as several businesses, despite his status as a fugitive. 

In late September he was arrested at his home in Yangon, throwing his party into disarray. Then last month the Union Election Commission forced the UDP, also known as the Rose Party, to disband following accusations it was funded illegally. 

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