Junta hands Yangon University Student Union leader three-year prison sentence

A 22-year-old member of the central executive committee of the Yangon University Students Union was sentenced to three years in prison with hard labour on Wednesday, nine months after his arrest at an anti-junta protest. 

Aung Hpone Maw was charged with incitement for allegedly violating Section 505a and given the maximum sentence by a Hlaing Tharyar township judge at a court hearing inside Yangon’s Insein Prison. 

He was arrested during a demonstration organised by the General Strike Committee in Kyauk Myaung ward in Tamwe Township on March 3. 

Despite a lack of evidence, the military council accused Aung Hpone Maw of leading two other individuals to incite unrest in Hlaing Tharyar and of supporting the Civil Disobedience Movement, his mother told Myanmar Now. 

“They could not provide any evidence for any of the things he was accused of,” Aung Hpone Maw’s mother explained. “His lawyer did his best during his court hearing. Aung Hpone Maw, however, confessed that he took part in around three protests. That’s all.”

The student activist refused to submit any evidence to the court in his defence, noting that he had no trust in the judiciary under the junta, but he allowed his mother to testify on his behalf.

“We at least hoped that the judiciary system would still be just. We did not expect much but it was our last glimmer of hope. It’s really sad that he got sentenced to prison without any evidence,” his mother said. 

Aung Hpone Maw was a fourth-year mathematics student at Yangon University. He joined the student union in 2018 and became a member of the central executive committee the following year. 

He was active in defending students’ rights, ethnic rights and condemning the genocide of the Rohingya people in Myanmar. He wrote regular commentary on the anti-dictatorship movement and other political issues and became an editor at the Oway Journal in 2019. 

“We still remember what he said during the protests in February. He used to talk about how we should never try to reconcile with the military, never hope for a supreme saviour, and to build a brave new world on our own,” Aung Kaung Set, also a member of the Yangon University Student Union, told Myanmar Now. 

Aung Kaung Set added that Aung Hpone Maw led a protest when lawyer William Schabas, who represented Myanmar’s delegation when the state was accused of genocide at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, spoke at Yangon University in March 2020. 

According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, as of this week more than 10,000 civilians have been arrested by the junta since Myanmar’s February 1 coup, and 1,400 killed. 

The military council has declared the AAPP an illegal organisation.

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