Myanmar junta sentences four student leaders to three years with hard labour

Four student leaders held in Yangon’s notorious Insein Prison for nearly a year have been sentenced to three years with hard labour for incitement, according to their lawyers.

Wai Yan Phyo Moe, Sitt Naing, Lay Pyay Soe Moe, and Thuta Soe were among hundreds arrested last March for taking part in protests in Yangon’s Tamwe Township.

All four were found guilty of violating Section 505a of the Penal Code for their part in leading the protests. They were tried by a special prison court and sentenced on Monday, their lawyers said.

“They were very calm and collected when they received the sentence. But I’m worried about Wai Yan Phyo Moe, as he has a history inside the prison,” said Thet Naung, the lawyer representing Wai Yan Phyo Moe and Sitt Naing.

Wai Yan Phyo Moe, who is vice president of the All Burma Federation of Student Unions, was previously sentenced to two years and one month in prison for taking part in a campaign calling for the restoration of internet access in Rakhine State in 2020.

He is also facing other incitement charges related to his anti-coup activism last year. 

Wai Yan Phyo Moe, Sitt Naing, and Lay Pyay Soe Moe were also tortured and placed in solitary confinement for taking part in a protest inside Insein Prison last July, according to statements released by their respective organisations at the time.

Sitt Naing, who is also known as Zaw Htet Naing, is the vice chair of the Yangon Educational University Student Union, while Lay Pyay Soe Moe is a central executive officer of the Yangon University Student Union.

Thuta Soe, who is a member of the Yankin Educational College Student Union, was among seven prisoners singled out for mistreatment by prison authorities for not complying with orders, Myanmar Now reported last June.

Aung Kaung Sett, the chair of the Yangon University Student Union, said the fact that all four had received the maximum sentence for their alleged offences reflected the junta’s attitude towards its opponents, but would do nothing to deter others from resisting its rule.

“We will continue to hold fast to our anti-dictatorship policies, as we always have,” he said.

According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), the regime has detained more than 12,000 people since seizing power last February. Of these, at least 9,437 were still behind bars as of March 1, the group says on its website

The regime has also killed nearly 1,600 civilians since the coup, according to the AAPP’s latest figures.

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