Myanmar regime sentences five to death for alleged role in 2021 train attack

Five people detained for their alleged involvement in a deadly August 2021 shooting on a train in Yangon were handed death sentences by a regime court on Thursday.

The Myanmar military arrested the four men and one woman – Kaung Pyae Sone Oo, Zeyar Phyo, Hsann Min Aung, Kyaw Win Soe, and Myat Phyo Pwint – in Yangon on September 3, 2021. 

During the attack, which occurred amid a nationwide wave of armed resistance against the coup that took place nearly seven months earlier, six police officers had been fatally shot on a train traveling Yangon’s circle line. 

The detainees were charged with murder and illegal weapons possession under several statutes, including the 1949 Arms Act and 2014 Counterterrorism Law.

Kaung Pyae Sone Oo was handed two death sentences under the Arms Act and terror charges, while Kyaw Win Soe, Hsann Min Aung, Kyaw Win Soe, and Myat Phyo Pwint received one death sentence and one life sentence each.

The verdicts were decided by Khin Ni Ni Aye, the district judge of Ahlone Township—where the attack occurred nearly two years ago—and the sentences were given at a closed-door hearing on Thursday morning at Yangon’s Insein Prison, according to a source familiar with the proceedings. Security at the prison was reinforced for the occasion, the source said.

The source emphasised that the death penalties were first given by the civilian judiciary rather than a military court since the coup. The sentences are alarming, the source added, particularly when other detainees are awaiting trial for the same charges.

“Only military tribunals used to hand down [death sentences]. But this one is the first from a judge in the civilian court system, which made people uneasy,” the source said.

Convicted prisoners can submit an appeal of their sentences to the military council within a week of the verdict, according to the same source.

A total of 117 post-coup prisoners are currently on death row, and the military regime has sentenced another 42 people to death in absentia, according to data maintained by the monitoring group Assistance Association for Political Prisoners. Earlier this month, the military regime commuted the death sentences of 38 prisoners to life imprisonment, and thousands of political prisoners detained for incitement charges received pardons.

However, the regime executed four democracy activists—Phyo Zeyar Thaw, Ko Jimmy, Hla Myo Aung, and Aung Thura Zaw—in July of last year.  The executions, which were the first instance of a Myanmar regime carrying out capital punishment in the country in decades, prompted condemnations from around the world.

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