Two children charged with harbouring explosives in Sintgaing

Two minors are among the seven villagers from Ohn Pin Chan in Mandalay Region’s Sintgaing Township who have been detained at the township’s police station since July 6, locals said; the boys are charged with possessing explosives. 

The villagers were arrested following a shootout between military forces and the Sintgaing People’s Defence Force (PDF) near Tada-U airport in which a junta soldier was killed and a PDF member was arrested. 

The military council’s troops then raided the local Shwe Kyal Sin tea shop, and arrested the owner, 32-year-old Min Thu Tun, his 12-year-old son Aung Swan Pyae, and a 15-year-old waiter. 

The other detainees were Min Thu Tun’s wife, Tin Nwe Hlaing, his brother-in-law, and two other employees, according to local sources.

The soldiers claimed that they found homemade grenades while searching a hut near the tea shop according to a resident who lived nearby. 

“The whole family was essentially abused,” said the resident. “I heard that the tea shop owner is being brutally tortured at the interrogation center. Some are even saying that he has died.”

The boys are charged with violating two sections of the colonial-era Explosive Substances Act for creating or possessing explosives and for being an accessory to the crime of doing so. The charges each carry a prison sentence of five to 14 years. 

They had their first closed court hearing on July 12. According to their lawyers, the next hearing is on Friday. 

“The kids asked for help during the previous court hearing. They said they had nothing to do with it. They appeared to be in good health,” said a close friend of the family, citing a report from the boys’ lawyers.

A Sintgaing PDF member confirmed to Myanmar Now over the phone on July 8 that the explosives found by the military belonged to their armed group, and not the family from the tea shop. 

“The military found out about the location of the explosives after a member of our group got caught near the airport. It really saddens me that even women and children were detained,” the PDF member said.  

Myanmar Now tried to contact the Sintgaing police station but the calls went unanswered.

The military has been interrogating civilians in several regions in an attempt to determine whether they have ties to local anti-junta PDFs. There have been multiple reports of children being subjected to such interrogations and abuse, but the military council has not released any statement concerning the arrests of minors.

On June 13, in Mandalay Region’s Mogok, members of the military council detained the 44-year-old wife and two underage daughters of a protest leader who they were unable to locate after a warrant was issued for his arrest.  

The five-year-old daughter was released from prison two weeks later, but the wife and 17-year-old daughter were sentenced to three years in prison on Tuesday for incitement under Section 505a of the penal code. 

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